Following the passage of legislation by both Houses of the Legislature to lower the state’s cap on property tax from 4 to 2 percent, Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove issued the following statement:
“Significant progress toward controlling government spending and addressing the state’s “affordability crisis” was achieved by the passage of legislation to lower the existing statutory cap for all local governments from 4 percent to 2 percent while also eliminating most of the cap exemptions currently allowed. Our Delegation proudly voted in favor of this bipartisan legislation as a practical and efficient means of our achieving one of our top priorities: to reduce the size, cost and scope of government.
“While we recognize the significance of establishing caps at the local levels, we fully understand sustainable fiscal reform can only be achieved if spending is controlled at the state level. Although it contained difficult cuts to program and services, Governor Christie’s recently signed FY 2011 State Budget finally marked an end to an era of failed and unrealistic fiscal policies spanning the McGreevey and Corzine administrations.
“Tax increases, one-shot budget gimmicks and borrowing were embraced during these Administrations as a means of maintaining the status quo in the hope of staving off any spending reductions, regardless of how dire the state’s financial situation was at the time. As a consequence, residents and businesses left in droves to states that were more affordable, setting the stage for what was to come.
“All it took for the situation to reach critical mass and to expose past state budgets as nothing more than a Ponzi scheme was for a downturn in the economy, which sure enough came with tremendous force. Sharp declines in revenues produced a $10.7 billion shortfall for the existing State Budget prior to its passage. One only has to glance at the State Budget cuts to truly grasp the dimensions of the budget shortfall’s impact on the state funding of services.
“Having seen the warning signs more than four years ago, the 9th District Delegation proposed a plan to reduce the size and scope of the state bureaucracy. In 2005, our Delegation called for a downsizing of the Executive Branch’s workforce, which had grown exponentially since the year 2000, by nearly 14,000 employees. Over a four-year period, this plan could have been achieved easily through attrition as statistics on the number of employees separating their employment with the state clearly showed. Further, estimates showed that after being fully implemented, our plan would have saved taxpayers $800 million annually.
“Every effort was made to advance this plan, but to no avail. Interestingly enough, though, as his election was approaching Governor Corzine was forced to recognize there was a problem, signing an Executive Order forming a commission to study reducing the number of state employees. Evidenced by the dismal condition of our state’s finances, Governor Corzine was too late in taking any definitive action. Had our plan for downsizing the State bureaucracy been approved when proposed, our state would be in far better condition, financially, to have faced the unforeseen challenges presented by the recession.
“Our Delegation will continue to work to reduce the size and scope of government in order to put an end to the overregulation and crippling tax burden that, over the past eight years, has suffocated businesses and has stifled economic growth in our state.”