Tag Archive: Seth Hahn

QoTD: Democrats in the NJ Legislature

Quote of the Day to CWA’s Legislative & Political Director, Seth Hahn:

For those keeping score at home, the Democrats in the New Jersey legislature had a busy schedule before they went home for the holidays. They muscled through a bill to make it easier to privatize municipal water infrastructure with no public input and fewer regulatory oversights and then they added a provision to a bill that could make it easier for private companies to develop for-profit ventures at Liberty State Park, which overlooks the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. They did not, however, have time to pass a statewide earned sick days measure, and the State Senate couldn’t even find time to give that bill a committee hearing. Cue 2015, where we’re about to get a lot of campaign literature about how they’re all just fighting for the common man and standing up for working families. [emphasis mine]

Christie Gambled with Your Money and Lost. Again.

In a world where government revenue is shrinking and demands for services are increasing, state governments continue to look for ways to generate more income. One such method has been state lotteries, which have been around in their present form since the mid-’80s.

In spite of the fact that state lotteries are really a form of regressive taxation, they have become a popular and essential element of the state fiscal budgeting process. In New Jersey, they represent the fourth largest source of revenue. But that source has been decreasing over the past several years.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that in the Garden State, the administration of the lottery is outsourced to a for-profit consortium, partially owned by foreign interests, that has been a solid donor to GOP political causes, including Chris Christie’s Republican Governor’s Association. And to add insult to injury, the firm that lobbied for this lucrative outsourcing scheme was Wolff & Samson – the same David Samson that’s embroiled in the Bridgegate scandal. Of course, back when this contract was being “competed”, as Seth Hahn – the political director of the CWA – points out, potential bidders knew about the Christie/Samson connection and probably figured it was not worth their effort to vie for this contract. Hahn said that “The M.O. of the Christie Administration is not to put good government first.” The consortium that eventually received the contract was the sole bidder.

Today, the Bloomberg News Service reported that instead of meeting its goal of a 7.4% increase in revenue, the privately-run New Jersey Lottery is facing a shortfall of 9.2%, or $24 million – money that is desperate needed by the state, whether it is for education, aid for the disabled, or one of Christie’s unnecessary senatorial elections.

Saving New Jersey Jobs

There have been a couple of posts on Blue Jersey lately (here and here) regarding Governor Christie’s plan to privatize the state lottery and ship jobs out of New Jersey. It’s hard to understand the governor’s motivation since the state lottery is one of the few revenue streams that are meeting projections. Today, I interviewed Seth Hahn, the Legislative and Political Director of CWA, to learn more about the impact of privatization.

“If it Ain’t Broke, Break it!”

“If it ain’t broke, break it.” That seems to be the mantra of the Christie administration when it comes to the running of the New Jersey State Lottery.

Today, the Assembly Budget Committee convened to discuss the administration’s plan to wrest the sales and marketing for the lottery from state workers and give those functions to a consortium of three for-profit companies, one of which is American, and none of which are located in New Jersey. The three firms submitted the only bid in response to the RFP. As Seth Hahn of CWA remarked in his testimony,

One has to wonder if there was any competition at all, or if the … companies planned from the outset to come together to stop competition. Other questions arise about whether this is competition or collusion.

These same companies are in a partnership to run the Illinois lottery, and the performance of that consortium has been unblemished by success, with multi-million dollar lawsuits flying around, and the citizens of the Land of Lincoln suffering from revenue shortfalls from that lottery. Back here in New Jersey, in the late 1990’s a young prosecutor named Kim Guadagno prosecuted a principal in one of the bidding companies for money laundering and political kickbacks. How times have changed!

It’s not that the New Jersey lottery is underperforming. According to Hahn, a report from an independent entity showed that sales have increased in the last decade, we are fifth in the nation in per capita sales, and gross margins are at the top of the list, “making New Jersey’s lottery the most efficient lottery in the country.”

The Assembly panel heard only one side of the story. State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff and Lottery Executive Director Carole Hedinger refused to testify. Their claim that it would be inappropriate during the negotiations with the private entity is a red herring since they could certainly keep the legislature informed in a closed session or answer questions not directly related to the negotiations.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Governor Christie eschews transparency and does not treat the legislature as a co-equal branch of government. This is ARC Tunnel déjà vu.

The bill requiring legislative approval for privatization of the lottery passed in the Budget Committee on party lines. If it passes in the full Assembly and then in the Senate, I’m sure Governor Christie will veto it faster than you can scratch off the numbers on a lottery card.

The lottery is one of only two of fourteen major revenue streams that is meeting their numbers this fiscal year. But the administration’s actions and lack of transparency put that in jeopardy. The legislature should put the brakes on this initiative until all the facts are known.