Tag Archive: 2012 Budget

“I Can’t Understand”

Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning.

I sit around trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry.

Strange voices are saying things I can’t understand.

It’s too close for comfort. This heat has got right out of hand. – Bananarama: Cruel Summer

Not at all an upbeat beach song, but then the summer of 2011 does not seem like a Beach Boys moment. Maybe it’s just the heat, or maybe it’s those strange voices saying things I can’t understand.

Our governor just took a two-week vacation, interspersed with wonderful YouTube moments, but left New Jerseyans frazzled by a State Budget in which he not only vetoed critical items but reduced the budget further. I can’t understand.

Jason Francis, 32, has been living for the past six years at Cheshire Home, a Florham Park non-profit serving young physically disabled adults. Francis suffered a crippling spinal cord injury in 2003. Budget cuts are affecting nursing homes and specialty care facilities. I can’t understand.

At a hearing on Tuesday, a 5-year-old blind youth and his mother testified that he had not received Braille instruction in more than a month. The budget included cuts to the blind. I can’t understand.

The off-again, on-again Medical Marijuana Program appears to be restarted. After numerous, needless delays, one can only hope the governor will not come up with yet another reason to press the pause button.  I can’t understand.  

Allegations of computer hacking by News Corp. were raised by the NJ FLOORGraphics Company in 2004 and later referred to then Prosecutor Chris Christie. According to POLITICO, Senator Lautenberg believes Christie’s office launched an investigation but after several queries was unable to get a response, and a criminal case was never launched. I can’t understand.

In our urban cities “where the pavements are burning,” we had to listen to a lecture from our governor on “statutory oversight,” before he mentioned he was willing to restore funding. I can’t understand.  

And then there is this nasty, seemingly interminable, and ever-changing debate over the terms for carrying out the essential step of raising the national debt limit. I can’t understand.

I suspect there are perfectly obvious answers to these conundrums, but I’m too frazzled by the heat.

When You Fall off a Horse…

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…

After two days, in the desert sun, my skin began to turn red.

After three days, in the desert fun, I was looking at a river bed.

And the story it told, of a river that flowed,

made me sad to think it was dead.

              –  Dewey Bunnell: A Horse With No Name

So the Democrats failed to override Governor Christie’s veto, and the river that flowed now appears dead. However, all is not lost.  The Star Ledger reports, “Negotiations between Gov. Chris Christie and legislators on restoring up to $139 million for New Jersey’s neediest cities are likely to begin this week.” Also, the Assembly Budget Committee this week will listen as members of the public and representatives of groups detail how the governor’s cuts may affect programs that serve children and Senior citizens.

The cuts were excessive and vindictive.  As, Mark Magyar points in NJSpotlight, The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) projected that revenues would be $913 million more than originally anticipated, while Christie’s treasurer came in with a projected increase of just $511 million. That $402 million difference would have been more than enough to restore funds for important projects.  Instead Christie made even more cuts, including further cuts in OLS’s budget.

The cuts were mean-spirited and tear at our social fabric. As Raymond J. Castro explains in NJ Policy Perspective, One in six New Jerseyans will be adversely affected by line-item vetoes of two critical programs – the state Earned Income Tax Credit and NJ Family Care. News from our urban cities reflects unmanageable fires in Camden, crime in Newark and financial crisis throughout.  

There are many, many more cuts that were excessive, vindictive, mean-spirited and tear at our social fabric. However, does Christie care and will he ameliorate the problem?  Possibly yes. Unemployment last month in NJ ticked up to 9.4%, housing is still in the doldrums, real estate taxes have not declined, and public employees are increasingly mad.  A large swath of New Jerseyans have reason to be disaffected.  A Bloomberg poll released at the end of June said “More people’s opinions of Christie have worsened than improved.”

Democratic legislators, having fallen off the horse on their first effort, appear to be getting right back on it. With their perseverance and an unhappy electorate, it may yet rain in the desert and that river show signs of life.    

2012 Budget: The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword

With few Republicans present on the Senate floor at 12:30, President Sweeney (D-3) called for order and asked Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) “to “move Budget Bill S4000” – which after approval in the Senate and Assembly chambers will move only a few hundred feet away to the State House offices of the Governor, his Legal Counsel, and the Treasurer. And it won’t be a pleasant journey for a bill hailed by Sarlo as “resetting priorities, being fair and honest, and based on shared sacrifices.” Although voted upon in the daylight (unusual for budget bills which can stretch long into the night), it moves to a darker space where Executive Powers stand ready to gut most of the Democratic provisions added to the governor’s original budget. Sen. Barbara Buono (D18) referred to “A Tale of Two Budgets,” perhaps unintentionally bringing to mind a famous novel which ends with mayhem and guillotining of the main character.

Like a Greek tragedy (to continue with half-baked literary allusions) the result is foreordained. A few proposals may survive but the more heroic ones will not. Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) who arrived late and sat fidgeting through a number of speeches finally stood up and in a loud whisper to nearby legislators and reporters, said, “Why am I here, since every Republican vote is locked in by the Governor?” He then walked out of the gallery.

Others continued the sword fight with Republicans saying that Democrats had inflated revenue, and Democrats insisting their proposals would benefit schools, the working poor, senior property taxes, and women’s health care.  At the end in both the Senate and Assembly the vote was along party lines. Although the Democratic leadership did not announce their alternative proposals until the last few days, they did put forth sensible plans. Nonetheless, as the drama comes to a conclusion, we know that the veto pen is mightier than the sword. For the future, we need a new drama with a new hero who better understands the needs of all New Jerseyans.