Republicans Unveil Common-Sense Fiscal Reform Plan Restoring Property Tax Relief and Providing Transportation Funding Without Higher Gas Taxes
Long-Term Strategy Would Expand Economy, Make Trenton More Accountable
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, joined by budget committee members Senator Steven Oroho and Assemblyman Joseph Malone, today unveiled a plan that identifies $1.32 billion in unnecessary spending in Governor Corzine’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal and uses it to restore property tax relief and aid to state municipalities, while eliminating the need for gas tax increases to finance transportation needs.
In addition, these Republican leaders also announced a series of long-term structural reforms to the state budget, reforms to the state pension and benefits system, and an aggressive economic development agenda to create jobs and revitalize New Jersey.
“This plan for a better New Jersey is a common-sense financial strategy to make our state more affordable, and your government more accountable to its citizens,” said Kean, R-Union, Morris, Somerset and Essex. “We’ve listened to New Jerseyans over the last few months as they told us what should be done, and we think we’ve come up with an ambitious, but practical approach that lets everyone get more of what they want from state government.”
“Our primary concern in crafting a state budget should not be the priorities of Trenton politicians, but those of the taxpayers who are demanding a more affordable New Jersey and a government that is more accountable,” said DeCroce, R-Morris and Passaic. “This proposal is a reprioritization of state spending that provides more tax relief, a strategy to increase the share of pay-as-you-go funding for our state’s transportation program, and more money to reduce the debt burden now facing our children and grandchildren.”
The Republican plan calls for re-allocating $1.32 billion from the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2009 spending proposal. Republicans would restore $525 million in property tax relief that Governor Corzine has put on the chopping block. This includes keeping the state’s commitment to property taxpayers by restoring the $375 million of Corzine’s proposed cuts to property tax rebates – rebates that last year Democrats in the Legislature promised taxpayers would be permanent – and also restoring $150 million in municipal aid cuts that will be used by municipalities to offset projected property tax increases. This also includes funding for rural state police patrols.
Republicans will constitutionally redirect $500 million of annual and recurring revenue as a permanent source of funding to bolster the State’s transportation program. Democrats are fighting amongst themselves about whether to raise the gas tax or tolls some other tax to pay for transportation when it is obvious to taxpayers that a $33 billion budget has ample resources within to finance state transportation needs without asking them to pay more.
About $100 million would be set aside because it’s prudent to build a surplus in a time of uncertainty. The remaining $195 million freed up by trimming overspending on various programs will allow the Legislature, working on a bipartisan basis, to explore other priorities.
These include the possibility of restoring funding for hospitals and nursing homes, financing more of higher education costs and maintaining the NJStars tuition assistance program. It could also include the elimination of the newly proposed Medicaid co-pay, and putting an end to the redirection of dedicated funds for State Police classes and the arts.
To address the state’s long-term fiscal crisis, Republicans proposed a series of structural reforms designed to gradually put the state’s budget back on sound fiscal footing. These reforms include:
- Enacting a strong budget cap.
- Allowing only recurring revenues to be used for balancing the budget.
- Mandating continuous audits of state agencies/departments.
- Requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for any tax increase.
- Making it much harder to borrow without t voter approval.
- Creating Initiative & Referendum.
The Republican plan also calls for enacting long-term pension and benefits reforms, many of which have been recommended by bipartisan legislative panels in the past. These measures, vital to making Trenton more accountable to voters and benefits more in line with those of the private sector, include:
- Increasing the retirement age for state workers to at least 62.
- Basing state pension calculations on a 5-year average instead of a 3-year average.
- Enacting a “one-job, one-pension” policy for determining retiree benefits.
- Raising the minimum salary for pension system membership to $15,000.
- Requiring retirees to contribute to their health insurance costs and eliminate health benefits for part-time employees.
- Reducing the number of state holidays by eliminating those not recognized as federal holidays, lowering overtime costs and making state services available more days of the year.
“We know that balancing this year’s budget alone is not enough to address New Jersey’s long-term fiscal crisis,” DeCroce said. “That is why we are including a structural reform component that going forward will help us to address many of the long-term problems that jeopardize our state’s fiscal well-being.”
The plan also includes an economic development plan to jump-start a struggling state economy that has lost nearly 10, 000 private sector jobs in the first four months of this year alone.
Republicans called for consolidating and streamlining all of the state’s economic development activities and putting them under the control of the Economic Development Authority while reforming the Business Employment Incentive Program (BEIP) to restore its original incentives to businesses that locate in the Garden State.
Republicans propose establishing a preference program for New Jersey businesses under government contract law that expands on the current 25 percent set-aside, extending the urban transit hub tax credit program to all towns, moving to a single sales factor for manufacturing businesses, and repealing the throw-out rule so that the state won’t tax income earned outside New Jersey.
“The only long-term solution to our budget problems is to grow the economy,” Kean said. “We need to act now to let businesses know that we will work with them as partners in making New Jersey more prosperous and progressive.”
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