Tag Archive: cuts

Calling Out Gov. Christie, One Dollar at a Time

Dollar DistrictToday I joined a group of Hawthorne parents and the NJ Working Families Alliance for a press conference at our Borough Hall. We came out because Hawthorne is one of the 40 “Dollar Districts” that Governor Christie claims are getting a bump in state aid this year when he is in fact giving them a single dollar increase.

If you’re like me, you’ve been inundated with campaign commercials from the governor touting this year’s budget as the “most education funding ever.” That’s about as ridiculous as claiming that one additional dollar is an increase. To commemorate Christie’s chutzpah, we brought a giant one dollar bill with the governor’s face on it. Christie can claim to be a friend to public education in his campaign commercials and in his town halls, but New Jersey parents have his number. Literally.

The truth is that this governor has a terrible record on public education, and every parent and property tax payer has suffered the consequences. Hawthorne, like every other municipality in New Jersey, was cut to the bone in 2010 and has been underfunded every year since. In fact, it’s getting only half of the aid it’s entitled to under the law. Each school district dealt with their cuts a different way. Some districts laid off teachers and staff, others imposed heavy fees, and almost all raised property taxes.

Parents at the event talked about the impact of the cuts on their child’s education, whether it was larger class sizes or a loss of special education support. Others spoke about property tax increases. Let’s face it: school aid is essentially direct property tax relief for middle-class families. And it’s no surprise that between Christie’s cuts to school aid and the Homestead Rebate program the property tax burden for middle-class families is up 20%.

The worst part of Christie’s continued underfunding of education is that it’s so unnecessary. The money is there. For the last three years Governor Christie has underfunded our schools while giving tax breaks to the richest 1% and the state’s most profitable corporations. If Prudential, Panasonic and Pearson Education can get their new office towers bankrolled by the state, why can’t Hawthorne get the $1.8 million it’s entitled to under the law?

In less than a month the legislature is going to pass a budget. They can choose to either accept Christie’s numbers or they can fight for a meaningful increase in aid for Hawthorne and every other district in the state. Here’s hoping they make the right choice.  

Newark’s Students Fight Back Tomorrow!

Now that’s what I’m talking about:

First things first: if any of the yahoos on talk radio or in the press decide to make a big stink about these kids cutting classes tomorrow, remind them of this:

This past week, pro-voucher forces in New Jersey bussed kids in from local Catholic schools to rally in support of a school voucher bill.

Chris Christie condemned that rally; he thinks it is wrong to take kids out of school for a protest:

“The schools did a lousy job in really permitting all these students to walk out in the middle of the school day. Their parents send them there not to protest. They send them there to learn. And I have no problem with students protesting. They have absolutely every right to exercise their first amendment rights. But they should exercise their first amendment rights either before school or right after school.”

Good for the governor! Children should never be used as political pawns…

Oops! Oh, is my face red! See, this is a quote from last year. He wasn’t complaining about a pro-voucher rally where kids – many of whom did not know why they were there – were bussed in by adults. No, he was complaining about spontaneous high school student walk-outs in protest of his cutting nearly $1 billion from public education.

Gosh, sorry to get that wrong. But I’m sure the Governor will be as equally dismissive of this rally as he was of the student walk-outs last year. He’ll be out with a condemnation of this right away.

Yep, any minute now…

Newark Student Walk Out – Tuesday April 9

Here we go. On Tuesday, Newark students will walk out of their schools at noon – “no longer separate schools, we are one united voice” – and converge from all over the city to the legislative budget hearings on education, at Rutgers Law School, Newark.

I have to say, this makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’ve been waiting for this. Watch:

Putting a face to the impact of Christie’s Millionaire Welfare program

The other day, I talked about how Governor Chrisite’s Millionaire Welfare program is disastrous for the health of New Jersey, and a few weeks before that, I talked about how income tax cuts in general are the problem, not the solution.

Today, I want to hammer this home by putting a human face on the impact and suffering of New Jerseyans due to the heartless, downright cruel and absolutely unnecessary government giveaways to the super duper rich.  I’ll start in Passaic, where over 200 disabled residents, many elderly and on a very limited fixed income must now pay an annual fee for a handicapped parking space that they were not charged for in years.  


“I didn’t want to make this tough decision, but we are being forced to at this time,” [Mayor Alex D.] Blanco said.

—snip—

“We hate to make these kinds of decisions,” Schaer said. “They strike at the quality of life. But with cuts we have gotten coming from Trenton and coming from Washington, we are the last stop.”

I’ll note that the tax savings from just one person earning $1,000,000 under Christie’s proposal would pay for virtually every single handicapped parking fee.

But the downgrade in the quality of life for New Jerseyans doesn’t stop there.  Those of us who take NJ Transit know all too well the significantly more erratic and lower level of service that we now get along with our higher fares so that millionaires can enjoy their lavish lifestyle.  

And while private security services in gated communities won’t be suffering, all across the state there are cuts to public safety due in large part to more cuts in aid from Christie’s budgets.  

Let’s also not forget Christie’s massive cuts to public education (as you’ve read here in great and painful detail), despite NJ consistently having one of the top ranked public school systems year in and year out – or that his cuts were slapped down in court and totaled nearly $1 billion his first year in office – a time when he cut taxes on corporations and on millionaires – two things that have not led to any measurable or direct job growth or economic activity.

And in possibly one of the unkindest cuts of all, drastic cuts in state aid to NJ nursing homes that care for the sickest of patients left them far short of the necessary funds, and could very well mean layoffs to staff at these nursing homes.

Clearly, the disabled, the elderly, the sick, the state’s children (and future), public safety and those working class families who use public transportation can stand some more service cuts and increased fees so that Christie’s base can get their government handouts and enjoy more luxury cars and vacations.

Please God, No.

“Please God, No”  said my friend about a feared half million dollar diversion of UEZ funds.  Is it legal for our township to divert UEZ funds into the general budget?  Legal or not the funds may disappear because council is desperate to live within its means, to reduce tax burdens.  

Yet all around us, popping up like mushrooms are lawn signs saying that less cops equals more crime, so vote Yes.  Vote to increase taxes.   By how much I ask.   My fearful friend says maybe 30%.   That is about $1200?   Maybe $900 says the friend.  

Then comes the perplexing comments about a tax shortfall due to the revaluation of buildings in town.   Huh?  The reval is not supposed to change tax receipts I say, right?    Right says friend,  but Nevertheless repeats the non-sequitor that the Tax Assessor says we will be short money due to the Reval.    And by the way, the redevelopment is killing us and tax exempt properties are now up to 40% from their former high of 28%.    

I lament that all these problems are just causing the sacrifice of middle class benefits and jobs when whats needed is for rich people to kick in more.   My friend is obviously not happy with this comment and pushes the conversation back to the point, which is that we really cant allow the feared diversion of UEZ money because the future of the town depends on it.  Perhaps that money could be loaned instead?    

So I say,  this tends to piss people off when i say it, but maybe you ought to try what the cops have done with signs all over town, you know, convince people of your position?  To which my friend replies that the business association was notified.    That’s like what, 50 people?

But there seems to be no appetite for actual democracy in my friend.

So, as an encouragement I say that people seem ready to support the cops even if it means paying some more taxes, although probably not a $1200 hike.  To which my friend says that there should be no hike at all, that we should live withing our means.    

Which is exactly why the township council is eyeballing that half million dollars in the first place.  Funny how these “starve the beast” fans never contemplate their own interests in keeping the beast fed.  

I don’t think God will intervene on this one.  

An activist court only when they disagree the with rulings

There was no uproar and cry about the activist courts yesterday as an appellate court ruled in favor of the Governor saying he was within his authority when he ordered school districts to spend millions of dollars in surplus money this year, to make up for cuts in state aid. Instead, we got this prepared statement from the Governor praising the decision:

Christie’s press secretary Michael Drewniak said in a prepared statement, the governor was pleased that the court “recognized his significant responsibilities and executive authority during a fiscal and financial crisis.”

“We know using surplus balances was a difficult step for school districts, but it was an urgent and necessary step,” the statement said.

And Assemblyman DeCroce also neglected to slam the activist courts on this one as the Republicans have been known to do regularly:

“I am pleased that the court affirmed Governor Christie’s executive order and recognized this action was an appropriate step in order to deal with the fiscal crisis he inherited when he took office.  New Jersey is dealing with unprecedented financial challenges and bold decisions need to be made in order to get us through these difficult times.  

“Those who refuse to acknowledge our fiscal problems need to face reality and understand they, too, must be part of the solution.  The court’s ruling confirms that accessing a school district’s surplus fund is not only within the governor’s constitutional authority, but is a logical approach in attacking the budget shortfall.”

You see, it’s only an activist court when they disagree with the decisions that are being made. When the court rules in their favor, it’s all good.

GOP Candidate Blames Taxpayer Peril on Christie Cuts

Kevin Hayes, a new Republican candidate for Township Committee in Berkeley Heights, says that this is a difficult time for the town due to external forces.

Hayes said, “I believe that dealing with the economic situation that Berkeley Heights faces, due to the significantly reduced state funding and rising costs and mandates of local government, requires a necessary balancing act to maintain our municipal services and schools without radically impacting our taxpayers.

Reduced state funding?  Wonder how that happened.

Chris Christie and the Budget State of Emergency Speech

Updated by Jason: Here is the full text of his speech.

Update by Hopeful: Reactions from legislators are posted in comments. Republicans are supportive, Democrats promise a “long, hard look.”

Chris Christie will be addressing the legislature today and is expected to describe how he will close this year’s budget gap. The speech is scheduled for 10:30AM and we’ll live blog it.

NJ.com has a preview:

Gov. Chris Christie will declare a state of emergency in a major budget speech today, laying the groundwork to make a range of cuts that will include $475 million in withheld state aid to schools, according to people familiar with his plans…

Christie will introduce $475 million in cuts to school funding to more than 500 school districts, a move he will not need legislative approval for, according to a Democrat who was briefed by Christie administration officials Wednesday night.

More furloughs, however, are not expected.

You’ll remember that Corzine had proposed cuts to state aid in December, but thought he needed legislative approval and didn’t get it by the time he left office.

I hear the speech will be televised on NJN, and it is on NJN radio and their radio live stream. Here is a link to the NJN Video live stream.

Still more cuts coming at the Star Ledger

Here’s a memo sent by the Publisher of the Star Ledger to employees yesterday:

To: Full-Time Employees

From: George Arwady

Subject: VOLUNTARY BUYOUT OFFER

Consistent with my updates to you, the revenue situation at our newspaper has worsened this year, and we expect a further significant revenue decline next year.

We are working on the budget for 2010, and it is clear that we must reduce our staff significantly to offset the continuing steep decline in revenue. My best estimate is that the full-time workforce must be reduced by at least 50 people.

Accordingly, we are announcing another voluntary buyout offer. Full-time, non-represented employees can apply to receive 2 weeks’ pay for every year of completed service, capped at 26 weeks’ pay, along with medical coverage for the severance period. The newspaper reserves the right to reject applications based upon business needs.

We sincerely hope that we meet our staffing goals through this voluntary buyout offer. If we do not, we will need to resort to other ways of reducing our employee costs, which could include involuntary layoffs.

At least 50 positions reduced in this round of cuts and things continue to look worse. Just last month, the Editor of the paper announced that he was leaving. They’ve already combined their statehouse bureau with the Record. The paper has also consolidated local coverage and their county sections, while raising prices at the newstand. Some that have left the paper have started new endeavours including online new sites like newjerseynewsroom.com.  

Corzine announces Emergency Budget Cuts

The budget situation continues to worsen and today Governor Corzine announced emergency measures:

“We are in unprecedented times, and therefore unprecedented action is necessary to keep the state on sound financial footing,” Governor Corzine said. “With revenues continuing to trend downward, we must take appropriate steps to continue to live within our means.”

The specific measures are said to be:

  • A requirement that all state employees take two unpaid furlough days in May and June, one in May and one in June, saving $35 million;

       

  • Redirecting $160 million in balances from dedicated funds to support programs currently supported by general taxpayer funds. About half of these funds will be used to help avoid the Unemployment Insurance tax increase;

       

  • Requesting the Legislature to enact a Tax Amnesty Program, which is expected to generate $100 million;

       

  • Utilizing $500 million that was previously set aside for debt relief and $200 million available from the Fiscal Year 2008 budget surplus;

       

  • Accessing $450 million from the Rainy Day Fund.

In addition, the state is expected to receive about $850 million from the federal stimulus package, scheduled to be signed into law Tuesday afternoon by President Barack Obama.

So we already have furloughs. Let us hope we do not have to travel California’s route of massive layoffs. Fortunately we have a functional state constitution so it is less likely that Republican extremists can hold the state hostage.

Update:  The italicized point that the furlough is one day in May and one day in June was sent out as a clarification by the governor’s office.