Tag Archive: taxpayers

This video announcing Chris Christie was made at your expense.

New Jersey taxpayers, pony up.

This grandiose video was produced at your expense to build DRAMA for Christie’s (actually short and detail-deficient) Budget Address, which mainly concerned a supposed deal on pension reform Christie bragged had been reached with NJEA, which denied it repeatedly during the speech to whoever asked. Make sure you know A VERY IMPORTANT MAN was at this podium today. Big, BIG doings.

And right after the speech? Christie got in the state chopper to fly away so he didn’t have to cross any crumbling New Jersey bridges.* Not that he mentioned the Transportation Trust Fund – – at all.

* No, not really. thwack-thwock-thwock. But you did pay for the video.

$5.43 Million: The Cost To Taxpayers To Create The Christie Brand

We may not have money to build and repair our roads, but we found money to build up Chris Christie’s image. Bob Ingle has a piece up today that is worth a full read, but in essence says that Governor Downgrade started believing his own press releases and in essence now is tripping over the headlines his staff has created.  The thing that caught my eye is how much it cost taxpayers for those press releases:

Those releases were manufactured by a communications operation that grew even as Christie boasted he had downsized government. Mark Lagerkvist of New Jersey Watchdog looked into it and reported the governor’s communications officers have increased by 50 percent in five years, costing taxpayers $5.43 million “to pay the team that helped turn him into a rising star on television, radio, YouTube, Facebook and other outlets.”

“The governor’s media team has expanded to include 16 full-time staffers and a payroll of roughly $1.36 million last year. Five of the employees collect six-figure incomes, led by communications director Maria Comella at $140,000 a year.” Previously, Comella was deputy communications director for Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

A 50% increase? 16 people full time to brand the Governor? Come to think of it, maybe New Jersey residents should root for a Christie presidency just so they can at least realize some return on their taxpayer investment.  

Why Would Christie Run For President When He Has Such a Great Job Now?

promoted by Rosi

NJ Watchdog found out through an OPRA request that Chris Christie has spent more than a million dollars for travel for his security detail on trips unrelated to his official duties as Governor.  That’s 1800 percent more than in the same period of time before Christie took office.

But what gets me is this line from the revelation:

“Last year, Christie traveled out-of-state on more than 100 days while visiting 36 states, Mexico and Canada, primarily on personal and political trips that were not official state business.”

That’s 100 personal and/or vacation days for Christie, a whopping 27 percent of every day away from the office on personal business.  Imagine if you got 100 days off a year.  

He wouldn’t get that kind of time off as President.  

How much did Chris Christie’s trip to cheer Dallas Cowboys cost NJ taxpayers? OPRA request: filed.

American Bridge has just asked Gov. Christie’s office to produce information about his Texas trip yesterday, where he cheered the Dallas Cowboys in owner Jerry Jones’ private box (where he did this). They’re seeking, among other things, travel records and expense logs for his air and ground travel, state police and trooper usage, private security expenses for Christie and any member of his family with him.

Read the full letter that just landed in Gov. Christie’s office on the jump page.

In this morning’s News Roundup, we highlighted an APP piece by Bob Jordan about Gov. Christie’s failure to account to New Jersey taxpayers how large a bill we’re all footing for his out of state travel, conducted not on NJ business but for his own political gain:

Christie in his political career and while he was U.S. attorney for New Jersey has been known as a big spender but secretive about how much public money is used for his travel.

Christie strayed outside New Jersey frequently over the past year on Republican Governors Association-funded political trips but there’s been no full accounting of costs incurred by New Jersey taxpayers on those trips. Christie has upcoming political trips to Florida, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Iowa and Illinois.

It falls to news organizations or ordinary citizens to spend time trying to get Christie’s front office to cough up that info. Those requests, via Open Public Records Act (OPRA) are frequently met with delay or incomplete response.  Read the full OPRA request – below.

New Jersey’s Bridge to Nowhere Arises in That Congested Supercenter Known as Cape May County

Every month there seems to be another spending scandal emerging out of the Christie Administration, or some other level or branch of the State Government. Well, this one can’t be pinned on the governor (I think), but it is equally as scandalous and irresponsible. Today the Star-Ledger reported that the State is spending $125 million on the construction of a parallel roadway to the Garden State Parkway at the end of Cape May. The roadway is aimed at either replacing or supplementing the existing roadway, which is multi-lane but has three traffic lights.

I’m a frequent Shore visitor, and have been to Cape May County several times this summer. I’ve seen this construction and have driven on the present portion of the Garden State Parkway on many occasions, in light traffic and heavy, at all hours of the day and night. And if there was ever a piece of construction that was absolutely not necessary, it is this one.

In a time where our state’s infrastructure, from our school buildings to our existing roadways are fragmenting and deteriorating before our eyes, where the Hudson River audibly groans each morning under the weight of commuter traffic, where NJ Transit fares soar, this parallel roadway ought to provoke outrage. It’s a no brainer. It’s New Jersey’s equivalent of the Bridge to Nowhere, but worse, because there’s already a bridge, it just has some traffic lights.

I’m sure the Turnpike Authority, which runs the Garden State Parkway, can produce road studies and the like that would probably back up the notion that this parallel roadway is the modern-day counterpart to the cure for cancer, but this just laughable. It’s an embarrassingly wasteful, misdirected way to spend a titanic fortune of taxpayer funds.

Yes, I understand that perhaps these funds were already in possession of the Turnpike Authority, and that it may or may not have been also been raised through toll fares and the like. But that really doesn’t matter, because in the end it’s all the state’s money.

What am I calling for? Really, not much at this point except to express my sadness over this. I mean, we can’t tear it up; hell, it would probably cost as much money to demolish it as it did to build it – or even more. But it stands as a concrete (no pun intended) example of how completely mismanaged our state is in terms of its spending and infrastructure.  

Ledger: In an ideal world, taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for Christie’s Bridgegate camouflage

We flame the Ledger – and especially its head opinionator Tom Moran – plenty when we think they’re wrong. Today, they make a crucial distinction between what the public got for Chris Christie’s Bridgegate legal bill ($6.52 million) vs. what it got for the much-cheaper (and , uh, more transparent) legislative investigation. And it’s dead-on:

The legislative investigation has cost $725,000 through March. From that, we learned that this traffic jam was manufactured for political reasons. We learned the order came from Christie’s inner circle. And we learned that the “traffic study” excuse was nonsense. We will learn more, no doubt, but Democrats are rightfully holding off on key witnesses to give prosecutors first track.

What did we get from Mastro, at nearly 10 times the expense? Few helpful facts, but plenty of laughs.

We read that Christie got all misty when he learned that his staff went rogue. We learned that it’s perfectly reasonable for him to forget that David Wildstein, his own appointee, told him about the lane closures as they occurred. We learned that Mastro did not even interview Patrick Foye, the Port Authority executive director who first exposed the lane closures as a scam. And we learned Mastro drew conclusions even though the other key players refused to speak with him.

“Gov. Christie has officially driven New Jersey into a ditch.” Reaction Roundup to Christie

Response from around the state to Gov. Christie’s announcement today that he intends to remedy a budget shortfall in large part of his own making, by drastically reducing two pension payments that NJ owes – see Bill Orr’s post

Christie’s Terrible Budget Solution to Meet the Shortfall
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“Someone needs to call 911. Gov. Christie has officially driven New Jersey into a ditch.

“Gov. Christie’s reckless policies have left him with no viable solution to his budget crisis. Gov. Christie’s plan will make our fiscal situation even bleaker, with more credit downgrades likely and future deficits worsened. Gov. Christie built a house of cards that is now collapsing upon New Jersey’s taxpayers.

“It’s notable that Gov. Christie is once again targeting the middle-class by delaying pension payments, while continuing to protect millionaires. It’s time for Gov. Christie to put his catchphrases aside and get a grasp on reality. He has no plan for funding needs such as transportation, education, open space and college affordability, and now he is pushing costs onto future generations while proposing more than 30 tax and fee hikes. Gov. Christie, quite simply, has concocted an economic disaster for New Jersey.”

                  – Lou Greenwald, NJ Assembly Majority Leader

“Governor Christie said he fixed the state pension. He said our economy was the New Jersey Comeback, and he’d stop relying on one-shot gimmicks.  He said record-breaking tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy would create jobs. After five years of Christie at the helm, it turns out every single thing he’s promised has failed miserably – with a record sixth credit-downgrade by Wall Street to show for all his failures. It’s time Christie realizes what everyone else knows: cutting taxes for the super-wealthy, while stealing money from pensions hasn’t worked yet. And it wont work this time. At every turn, Governor Christie has chosen the path of economic instability, due to his wrong priorities and callous actions towards New Jersey’s working families. Since Christie is clearly unwilling to be a responsible actor, we call on the state legislature to step up and be the adults in the room.”

                  – Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ State Director

Warren County Built a Courtroom Wrong. Freeholders Won’t Admit Fault.

There has been a dispute in Warren County for the past few years, ever since they built a courtroom with a pillar that blocks the defense tables’ view of the jury and witness stand.

How can a defendant be afforded a fair trial if his lawyers are not allowed to see the witness stand, much less a jury?

It was a boner of a move by the county to pay for a courtroom that can’t be used, but these things happen.

There have been too many delays in an already crowded courthouse. It’s a very frustrating thing. Anyone who has made a similar mistake can sympathize, but the all-GOP freeholder board should have known better.

The rules were available to the county and to the architects they hired when they decided to build it anyway. They should admit their mistakes and rebuild. But no, here come the talking points: “It’s about taxpayer money!

The County’s solution?

A state senate bill proposal would give the County the power to decide that denying a defendant’s right to full access to the courts is “suitable” solely because they don’t want to be responsible for raising the money to fix it.  

The One Where huntsu Goes Off The Rails on Public Education

I’m reading an article in PolitickerNJ, a site that has atrophied and shriveled since it lost Wally Edge, and am once again pulling the hair out of my head.

Darryl Isherwood wrote the following insanity:

As it is currently implemented, the school funding formula is all about taking money from taxpayers to give to “certain taxpayers” to educate their kids.  What Giordano objects to is using it for private schools.

Isherwood equates the state providing extra tax dollars to communities where education is more expensive with using tax dollars to pay for private education with no public oversight.

This exhibits a dramatic ignorance of what publicly funded education is about.  He’s swallowed the right wing idea that it’s about taxpayers getting a bang for their buck, and in particular taxpaying parents.

I’ll repeat myself: It’s not about the taxpaying parents.

More below the fold

All You Have To Do To Be A Taxpayer Is Buy A Snickers

There was a time when the ultimate source of pride in this country was being an American Citizen.  It was an awesome thing, and we had free mandatory public education so everyone could be better citizens.  We had public meetings and parties so people could be better engaged as citizens.  Being an American meant being a CITIZEN in bold italic capital letters.  Nothing superseded it.

But things started changing around 1980 or so with the Reagan Revolution as the concept of citizen was discounted.  This reached its pinnacle during the roll up to the Iraq War as countless American citizens were demonized and attacked as traitors for not supporting a war of choice against a country that had not attacked and could not attack us.

Something had to take the place of being an American Citizen as the ultimate sign of patriotism and righteousness.  Some tried “real Americans” but that just smacked of moronic stupidity.  Others tried, “middle America” but that left out the majority of Americans living on the coast.

What took root was “Taxpayers” which came to symbolize everyone we were trying to serve.  Why do we have to cut the benefits of public workers?  The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why do we need to eliminate medical care for the elderly? The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why do we need to get Obama out of the White House? The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why do we spend $10 million investigating Clinton’s use of his privates?  The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why should we deny marriage equality?  The Taxpayers deserve it!

And it goes for both sides of the aisle.  Seemingly rational Democratic legislators start saying we need to protect Social Security because the Taxpayers deserve it!  End the Iraq War why?  The Taxpayers deserve it!  Eliminate bargaining for public sector unions? The Taxpayers deserve it! (Yeah, I’m looking at you Sweeney.  And your well-funded 2013 primary from a union member who understands how important bargaining is.)  

But there is a massive flaw that makes the use of “Taxpayers” even more moronic than “real Americans.”  At least “real Americans” implies there are “unreal Americans” out there to fight.

But anyone who buys a tire for a car, a gallon of gasoline, takes a paycheck from an honest employer, rides an airplane, buys a house, buys a book, goes to the movies, or engages in any other of a billion different actions and transactions is an American Taxpayer.

In fact, you don’t even have to set foot in the United States to be a taxpayer.  A Saudi Arabian can own 100% of a company operating the United States, meaning they pay taxes here.  A French citizen who never left Paris could export wine, and is now an American Taxpayer.  That Mexican coyote sneaking illegal aliens into the United States and gets a hotel room for the people he pays to treat them like shit is an American Taxpayer.

And you know who else is an American Taxpayer?  The school teacher Chris Christie demonized the other day as screwing over American Taxpayers.  The state union worker who Steve Sweeney just demonized as sucking at the teat of American Taxpayers!  All of these people who the right and “left” have demonized as screwing over the American Taxpayers are American Taxpayers!

But I’ll take it one more step, and the saddest thing about what I am about to lay out for you is that it is not taking my argument to the illogical extreme.  It is not reductio ad absurdum.  It is simply a plain hard fact — something sorely missing in our public and political discourse today — that the following people were not only American Taxpayers but also New Jersey Taxpayers:

  • Abd al-Aziz al-Umari
  • Ahmed al-Ghamdi  
  • Salim al-Hazmi  
  • Nawaf al-Hazmi  
  • Majid Muqid  
  • Khalid al-Mihdhar  
  • Hani Hanjur  

These seven men at one time or another paid New Jersey and United States sales and income taxes, gasoline taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, and any number or other fees or taxes.

And on September 11th these seven men boarded airplanes and flew them the fuck into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and thanks to some courageous passengers an empty field in Pennsylvania.

So the next time some moronic politician wants to tell you that we are doing something for the taxpayers, don’t let them use that rhetoric to shut you down.  Just remind them that everyone is a taxpayer, even those who hate this country, and you don’t want to justify political actions in a way that supports the terrorists of 9/11.

We need to go back to talking about American Citizens, about citizenship, about engaging in public life as an American.  These are things that Americans and immigrants can aspire to and desire.  It is hard to be a good citizen.  It takes work to be a citizen.  You have to sacrifice to be a citizen.  You have to give up evenings with your children to be a citizen.  You have to waste vacation days at work to be a citizen.

All you have to do to be a taxpayer is buy a Snickers bar.