Senate President Steve Sweeney has just made several excuses for our current “Go Along To Get Along” Budget.
Sen. Sweeney has said:
Well there is $32.9 bilion in the budget which is not chicken feed and should provide opportunities to maneuver.
For starters there is the the bloated Governor’s Office budget, corporate tax breaks such as those for companies that only move a few blocks away (Prudential in Newark), incarceration costs for minor drug violations, ending over-payments to halfway houses, reigning in absurdly high hospital charges, reducing duplication of expensive medical equipment in the same vicinity, medical tort reform, and reducing pay to play which increases government costs. (Feel free to add your preferred cost cuts.)
For the Governor it’s all about cuts. For the Senate President it should be about increasing State revenue. The $7.5 million legislature request for family planning will probably be vetoed by the Governor but for every dollar the State spends here the federal government contributes nine dollars. The Governor is selectively averse to accepting federal funds (ARC tunnel), but the Senate President should be seeking such funds. NJ traditionally receives less each year from the Federal government that what it sends to Washington. Let’s not forget that a tax surcharge on millionaires not only raises revenue but is a burden the wealthy can carry. Our poverty and income disparities are burdens we should not have to carry.
Pension obligations will indeed be a necessary drag on the budget. All the more reason to re-examine appropriations and push for more ways to increase revenue. And all the more reason to review and set new priorities, instead of whining that there will be no money. Governor Christie is good at finding money. (He will need to find $24 million just for the current Special Election, which is not in the budget.) Sen. Sweeney should hone his skills, discuss priorities publicly, appropriate accordingly, and go about finding the money.