Senator Tony Bucco, Republican budget officer, said he was disappointed but not surprised by new Mayor Dana Redd’s decision to double the pay of some political appointees to her administration even as New Jersey faces the worst economic crisis in decades. Bucco noted that a new law approved by the Legislature on Jan. 11 greatly weakens the governor’s ability to oversee how hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxpayers’ money are being spent, leaving the governing of Camden open to the kinds of abuses for which it has become infamous. Bucco called on new legislation to restore oversight and require accountability of Camden officials.
“The new law crippled the governor’s ability to exercise oversight over the hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money pumped into Camden each year,” Bucco said. “In the Senate, Democrat legislators passed this law over unanimous Republican opposition even though nearly all money spent by the city of Camden comes from state aid, not local taxes.
“The history of Camden’s local government has been one of unbelievably lax accountability, deficit spending and corruption,” Bucco said. “It is appalling that my Democrat colleagues have given the officials of this mismanaged city the right to thumb their noses at the hard-working taxpayers who pay Camden’s bills year after year after year.”
Bucco noted that in the middle of the worse economic downturn in more than 60 years, Camden approved an $11 million increase in its budget and plans to spend $178 million in 2010. To pay for the increase, Corzine appointees boosted “Special Municipal Aid” to Camden from $56 million last year to $67 million this year, over the objections of the new governor. The 7 percent jump in spending comes as nearly every other New Jersey city is bracing for big budget cuts. Most incredibly of all, Bucco said, Corzine’s appointees never required Camden officials to address the serious issues raised in state audits of the city’s finances before allowing the city to apply for and receive more aid.
“Senator Steve Oroho and I will introduce legislation that requires cities to address the problems found by state auditors before being approved for another year of so-called ‘Special’ municipal aid,” Senator Bucco said. “I will also be looking for opportunities to do what should have been done in the first place – strengthen the governor’s oversight over Camden’s finances during this lingering recession.”