Four Republican senators held a news conference today to express their growing unease at the failure of Governor Jon Corzine to honestly address plunging tax collections. After refusing to update revenue figures for months, Corzine finally admitted on Monday that tax collections have missed projections by 3.1 percent so far this year. At that pace, the state will have a $1 billion revenue shortfall, adding to the $8 billion to $10 billion deficit projected for next year. Incredibly, the governor responded with only $205 million in accounting shifts and an order to his Cabinet to find just $200 million in possible spending reductions.
"Governor Corzine has neither admitted the scope of our fiscal problem nor taken real steps to address it," Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean said. "If the governor does not confront the crisis decisively now, he will inevitably seek huge tax increases and reductions in services next year that will make New Jersey even more unaffordable to the middle class."
"Today, we're offering $200 million in real spending reductions that the governor can make immediately, and we pledge to work with the governor to reduce another $800 million in expenditures this year," Republican Budget Officer Tony Bucco said. "We hope the governor will acknowledge the growing crisis and show the leadership to commit to bipartisan solutions."
"Our Legislature has been on vacation since the end of June, even as we face the worst fiscal crisis in the state's history," said Senator Joe Pennacchio, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. "In the meantime, the governor has been making the shortfall worse by awarding more grants and aid and expanding the governor's office payroll."
"Faced with uncertainty and crisis, the best managers prepare for the worst," said Senator Steve Oroho, also a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee. "Instead, Governor Corzine has consistently ignored a growing problem, putting us on collision course with an unprecedented $8 billion to $10 billion budget deficit next year."
Listed below are eight steps the governor could take today to save $200 million. If the governor doesn't think these measures are the best ways to deal with the crisis, Republicans in the Senate stand ready to give an honest hearing to any proposal he has for bringing expenditures in line with a realistic forecast of revenues:
Immediately impose a furlough on authorities that are subsidized by the state. Why are subsidized authorities like the sports and exposition authority being given a pass while everyone else is furloughed?
Freezeremaining special municipal aid program funds and clamp down on future awards. Just last week, $12 million was given to Newarkwithout even first obtaining an audit for the city which is now one year overdue. There is no accountability and there are no written standards for this program.
Freeze remaining extraordinary aid fundsfor fiscal year towns. Thirty to 50 townsare about to be givenawards that didn't require that they meet anyobjective standards. These towns are in line fora$4 millionincrease while the other 500 towns in this state received aid cuts.
Stop making exceptions tothe hiring freeze for nonessential employees. Over the past year, Corzine has made numerous exceptions to his hiring freezeforeven his own office and in various departments'management positions.
Freeze alldiscretionary program spendingunless is for essential job growth/retention or life-safety matters. This includes spending on programs such as folk arts apprenticeshipsand road beautification.
Make nonunion state employees pay co-pays and premiums that match what workers in the private sector pay. State workers now pay premiums and co-pays that are one-fourth of what private sector employees pay.
Impound the pay and benefit payments for political patronage appointments on commissions and boards that meet once per month. Volunteers run most boards and there isno reason why volunteers cannot handle the duties of a board like theboard of cosmetology and hairstyling.
Accept the recommendations ofa former member of the parole board who has pointed out wasteful spending that should be brought under control.
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