The two bill (S2411 and S2412) for replenishing the Transportation Trust fund (TTF) and creating a sustainable source for the next ten years are at an impasse now. The plan in Christie’s new budget is a non-starter as he provides… Read more
As the chart below clearly shows, there is a strong correlation between the per capita consumption of mozzarella cheese and the number of civil engineering doctorates awarded. No one doubts that the better educated our civil engineers are, the safer… Read more
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that New Jersey public schools are in trouble. While pouring money into our schools is not the complete answer, re-allocating money to private schools is detrimental to public education. When a proposal to reallocate that money is unconstitutional, that’s even worse.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen) is proposing a subsidy to private institutions under the guise of improving security. His bill (A-4288) allocates up to $25 per nonpublic school student to enhance security measures at those schools including religious-based ones.
No one argues that private schools face the same security threats that public schools do. With the easy availability of guns, a deranged shooter could just as easily target a parochial school. But security is an operating expense that should be funded by those who opt out of public education. Schaer’s bill is nothing more than a subsidy to religious institutions – institutions that already receive fire and police protection without paying taxes.
The State Board of Education issues rules and standards for public schools. It would be better if the legislature passed a bill outlining a required set of standards for security at nonpublic schools. Then, let those who opt out of the public education system pay for them.
On the surface, today’s New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee hearing on the Department of Environmental Protection seemed boring and unproductive, even by Trenton Standards. NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin refused to answer questions about the Exxon giveaway settlement but did spout out a lot of statistics about specific remediation projects, allocation of money, and the high-level plans for the Department.
Questions from panel members included the status of in-district projects and where some of the funds are going, but Martin referred any questions on the Exxon deal to the Attorney General and the Treasurer.
It’s no secret that Chris Christie has been hostile to the environment throughout his reign, so the comments from Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director, should come as no surprise.
Following this morning’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing with the Director of the Office of Legislative Services, in the afternoon, the committee heard from the New Jersey State Treasurer and Christie confidante, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff.
While the morning session was non-confrontational, the presence of about half again more press and observers was probably due to the expectation of discord between the Treasurer and the Democratic committee members. For a while, that was not to be. Only close to the end of the session did the Treasure make some political statements, and to be excoriated for that by the Committee Chairman, Assemblyman Gary Schaer.
Sidamon-Eristoff’s opening statement could have been a list of debate points developed for Governor Christie’s presidential campaign. It painted a rosy picture of New Jersey’s economy and the “accomplishments” of the Christie administration. Of note was one area of “saving” – $140 million dollars in budget reduction for hospital charity care. When asked why, the treasurer noted that this was due to thousands of New Jerseyans now able to get health insurance whereas they could not in prior years. And he did this without once uttering the words “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare.”
Yesterday, Bill Orr reported on the first of several public meetings of the Senate Budget Committee. This morning, its the Assembly’s turn, with the first of several meetings; this one being held in Collingswood. Prior to the start of the session, I spoke with Chairman Gary Schaer:
Mary C. Jacobson, Mercer County Assignment Judge, will hear oral argument on the pension cases, consolidated under a single docket, tomorrow at 2 p.m. Although this is a pension case, it also has a significant impact on the state budget, departmental budgets, inequality, unfunded liabilities, interest rates, and the economy. The lawsuits pit the governor’s budget process rights against the unions’ contract rights to a full annual state pension contribution. For the unions it’s important that the court uphold the validity of the contract even if there is no money in the 2014 budget for a full pension payment. Governor Christie seeks carte blanche to pay into the pension fund as as he wishes. There are several possible outcomes, each having different impacts. Regardless there remain long-term systemic problems that need solving.
Other than not paying the bills, the NJGOP doesn’t really seem to want to deal with our budget gap in any meaningful way. Senator Tom Kean went back to the good ole game plan of talking about opposing fees while his Governor proposes them, but in response we have to give the quote of the day to Assembly Budget Chairman Gary Schaer who responded to their world of fantasy and make believe with this: [emphasis mine]
“I would join Sen. Kean in saying I’d like a budget that has no new taxes,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Gary Schaer (D., Passaic). “I’d even go so far as to say we have no income tax, and let’s rebate everyone 100 percent of their property tax. Now, after we’ve discussed our wish list, why don’t we speak about the serious business of the state government: How are you paying for the necessary programs that you want?“
I admire the Budget Chairman’s hope that the NJGOP will join him in getting real, but they seem rather content to govern by talking point and straw man while our state gets downgraded instead of dealing with the serious issues we are facing.
Yesterday, I posted the opening remarks delivered by Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf at the Assembly Budget Committee.
Following his remarks, there were several hours of questions and answers. The videos posted here are in two parts – the morning session below, and the afternoon session below the fold.
I don’t expect anyone except the most fervent edunerds (thanks for the term, Rosi) to watch the whole thing, but below the fold is an index of the initial appearance of your favorite assemblycritters.
The discussion falls into three categories:
Kowtowing to special interests
Dealing with local constituent issues
There was no real discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of charter schools, funding religious schools, or the education-industrial complex. To be fair, this was a budget hearing, not a hearing of the Education Committee. But things like sending taxpayer dollars to unaccountable for-profit entities and religious institutions do have an impact on the budget, especially when the outcomes are so nebulous.