Press Release
Senator Tom Kean, Jr. Senator Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21)
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December 8, 2011
Getting Serious in the Lame-Duck Session

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The following editorial by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. was published in The Record on December 8, 2011:

The end of every two-year legislative session is known as “Lame Duck” — the time between Election Day and the start of the new legislative year, representing our last chance to pass bills pending before the Senate and Assembly.

While these sessions are always marked by a flurry of action, quite frequently that action is on legislation of little or no substance. Lame Duck proceedings are too often like a drawn-out episode of Seinfeld, the show about nothing.

Given the economic challenges facing New Jersey, I hope this year will be different.

Republicans have been working for over a year to address several needed reforms that will help control property taxes and stabilize state finances so that businesses can prosper and create jobs in New Jersey, and residents can afford to live here.

We will soon see if the Democratic Senate president’s commitment to do “something” in the next few weeks will be for substance or show.

Legislative Republicans want to end the practice of paying public workers for unused sick leave once and for all.

True reform needs to eliminate cash value for any future sick leave accrued, and require that any further payments for time already banked be calculated at the employee’s salary level when it was earned, not his or her highest year of salary.

Democrats have previously refused to embrace ending payments for any time accrued by an employee moving forward, instead proposing we allow payments to continue up to a cap.

That is a sham, and I hope that the majority will not try to once again pass a feel-good bill that doesn’t solve all facets of the problem. Sick leave should be for when you are sick, not a bonus to collect upon your retirement.

The state civil service system makes it extremely difficult for local elected officials to reduce unnecessary or duplicative positions, change job responsibilities of workers to meet the community’s needs or get rid of poorly performing employees.

Voters should have the ability to do away with civil service in their community through a referendum, which is part of the reform agenda Republicans have championed. In addition, local elected officials should be allowed to institute mandatory furloughs to cut costs in order to avoid property tax increases.

Watered-down legislation

Here again, Democrats passed watered-down legislation that accomplished little. Their civil service bill, vetoed by the governor, contained no voter referendum and no new cost-cutting tools for local government.

Over the last two years, the majority’s approach to job creation has been little more than advancing inconsequential legislation that, while containing the words “jobs” or “work” in the title, will have little practical impact on our economic climate.

Judging by their support this year for a budget that spent roughly $1 billion more than the state takes in, it appears Democrats still do not understand how the economy works.

Joblessness in New Jersey stems from years of fiscal mismanagement, big budgets and high taxes that tell employers to get out while they can.

2 percent cap

To send a signal to businesses that they will no longer be gouged to pay for bad decisions coming out of Trenton, we need to apply the same 2 percent cap to the state budget that has been enacted at the local level. Fiscal discipline doesn’t make for a great sound bite, but it is the only way we will tell job creators that New Jersey is a welcoming place for them to do business.

Despite the partisan rancor in Trenton, we have been able to accomplish some big things for New Jersey over the past two years: a hard cap on property taxes and historic reforms to pensions and benefits for public workers, just to name a few.

But politics has bottlenecked too many common-sense ideas as well. With the clock winding down on 2011, what is done or not done during Lame Duck will show whether the majority is serious about getting “something” done for taxpayers, or if this will just be another “Seinfeld Session” in the State House.

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