The following editorial by Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) on the need to advance the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Economic Fiscal Policy Workgroup was published on Dec. 6, 2018 in Gannett publications, including MyCentralJersey.com.
Sen. Kip Bateman’s editorial on the need to advance bipartisan fiscal reforms was published on Dec. 6, 2018 in Gannett publications, including MyCentralJersey.com. (Wikimedia Commons)
The most common concern I hear from my constituents is that our state has simply become too expensive. Young adults can’t afford to raise a family here. Their parents can’t afford to retire here, so they can help raise their grandkids. Far too many of our residents, from recent grads to seniors, are picking up their lives, and heading out of state.
As leaders of this state, we have two options: we can make fiscally responsible decisions to save New Jersey now, or force our kids to deal with a legacy of economic turmoil. Without immediate action, I fear they will face the latter.
It’s a hard truth to hear, but the reality is, that New Jersey’s future is dependent upon how we act today. That’s why I am proud to support the efforts of the bipartisan Economic Fiscal Policy Workgroup, which was commissioned by Senate President Steve Sweeney and is chaired by Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Senator Steven Oroho (R-24.)
I had the opportunity to hear more about the Workgroup’s proposals at a roundtable the Senate President and I hosted for local officials on Nov. 30 in Somerville. I believe that the bold reforms, or “Path to Progress,” these policymakers have put forward will guarantee families can afford to live, work, and retire in the state they are proud to call home. They won’t have to move to Pennsylvania or Florida to get by. They can stay right here with their families and friends and enjoy everything that makes the Garden State the best place in the world to live.
One of the proposals made by the workgroup is to convert public employee health benefits from platinum-level coverage to gold-level plans. This change alone would create more than $1 billion in savings for taxpayers – while ensuring public employees still have access to high-quality and affordable healthcare. Their out-of-pocket costs would also be lower.
However, New Jersey’s fiscal woes can’t be solved with one policy fix alone. We also have to address our woefully underfunded pension system, and the trouble this spells for the state, taxpayers, and public employees.
Without necessary pension reforms, New Jersey’s system for financing public employee retirement, as well as all of the other projects and resources we need to pay for, will come apart at the seams.
Currently, New Jersey’s combined pension and retiree health benefit liability is four times the state’s annual budget. We shouldn’t try and make up the difference by forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab. It’s time to tighten our belts.
Elected officials cannot and should not continue to spend your money without enacting responsible reforms. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country. I don’t think we should ask you for an extra penny.
We also need to continue to address the inequities in how we fund our schools, particularly when it comes to funding special education.
I was glad to see us make some progress on this last year. The school funding reforms we passed during the budget season last June ensured that seriously underfunded districts like Manville will finally get the dollars they need to give every student an equal opportunity to get a great education.
One of the reasons why school funding is so difficult in New Jersey is because of the cost of funding special education. My colleagues have proposed innovative solutions for tackling these costs – and we will continue to do so. We have to ensure every child with special needs is getting the direct support and resources they deserve.
I and many of my Senate Republican colleagues are willing to reach across the aisle to implement responsible solutions to make New Jersey more affordable. We have spent years pushing for many of the reforms Senate President Sweeney’s bipartisan workgroup are now advocating for. I am glad to see that we are finally heading in the right direction. Government works best when we work together.
We have spent a lot of time talking about solutions to New Jersey’s fiscal crisis, but rhetoric on fiscal responsibility is just that – rhetoric. It’s time for action. We have solutions; now we need the Legislature and Governor Murphy to act on them.
Taxpayers deserve leaders who will stand up and fight for them. I am proud to stand behind the bipartisan reforms the Workgroup has proposed, and I look forward to enacting serious policies that address the public’s concerns.
Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Branchburg, represents the 16th Legislative District.