New Jersey's 24th Legislative District

Senator Steven Oroho

Senator Steve Oroho

Oroho: Tomorrow’s Outrageous Giveaways Through Unaccountable Special Municipal Aid Program

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Last Minute Giveaways of Tens of Millions of Dollars to Favored Towns by Corzine Breaks Back of State Budget and Comes at Time of School Aid Cuts

Senator Steve Oroho, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, is condemning Governor Corzine’s planned giveaway tomorrow of tens of millions of dollars to the politically connected municipalities of Camden, Paterson, Union City, and Bridgeton through the arbitrary and mismanaged Special Municipal Aid Program. Award of aid to the towns has been scheduled for a vote at tomorrow’s meeting of the Local Finance Board at the Department of Community Affairs at 10 AM.

“New Jersey is going bankrupt and school aid is being cut. Meanwhile, Governor Corzine is shoveling tens of millions of dollars into mismanaged favored municipalities, ” Oroho stated.

In May of 2008, the State Auditor raised serious questions about the Special Municipal Aid Program which noted hundreds of millions of dollars were being given out without an application process and decisions on aid were subject to “managerial override.”

While an application process was instituted after significant public pressure, applications are now only provided to select municipalities. There are still no written rules or regulations governing the program despite the Administrative Procedure Act requiring such rules and regulations. Audits of recipients were conducted under control by the very agency responsible for the program, instead of by the Comptroller as budget language had provided. Hearings with respect to the State taking over certain recipient municipalities were never held despite a State law requiring such hearings to be held. (-MORE-)

Completed audits of recipient municipalities were not shared with legislators or the public for months despite State law requiring such audits to be provided and despite hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money having been spent on their preparation.

The program has grown from $38 million to more than $150 million in a short period of time. Requests by legislative Republicans for documents that would explain why a handful of recipients of the aid were chosen and justifying the amounts awarded were denied during last year’s budget review.

“More than one hundred million dollars is being shoveled into a handful of towns without any reasonable process. It is disgraceful that this program is being allowed to bleed taxpayers at all, much less while school aid and property tax relief are being slashed throughout the State, ”

Oroho continued. “Furthermore, it is irresponsible to spend hundreds of millions of dollars at a time the state is facing a potential $10 billion deficit.”

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