Thursday, March 27, 2008
Open Letter to Jeff Van Drew, Nelson Albino, and Matthew Milam
March 20, 2008
The Honorable Dr. Jeff Van Drew, Senator The Honorable Nelson Albino,
Assemblyman The Honorable Matthew W. Milam, Assemblyman
21 North Main Street
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Your recent March 11, 2008 was most appreciated. Your 7-point plan is a small beginning to addressing the root cause of the continuing budget deficit. In itself it is not the answer, a beginning perhaps but not the solution.
I offer the following comments on your seven initiatives which it seems from your letter you believe will lead the state in the right and prudent direction to fiscal responsiblity:
• Regarding the Constitutional amendment SCR79, while it would end using non recurring revenues it does nothing to reduce the massive deficit.
• Again, it appears that all you are doing with Constitutional amendment SCR78, is prohibiting the State from borrowing money and incurring debt – without voter approval. What is needed is a moratorium on financing such as this; until the state has a fiscal plan that makes sense.
• With SCR50, you are amending the state Constitution by placing a cap on spending. What good is the cap when you still have not addressed the core issue – pension reform?
• S421, legislation introduced, would reduce the Trenton bureaucracy by 10 percent. This is a great idea, the problem is for this reduction to be meaningful it has to reach all levels of government – state, county, authorities and municipalities, otherwise it is self defeating.
• Constitutional amendment, SCR49, would create a “rainy day” fund. At this point in time it is a bad idea. Once you have a balanced budget; then perhaps you can put funds aside for a rainy day.
• Bill, S1388, for a new state Comptroller -- a good idea, however, it is too late to attempt to rein in a runaway budget. All this new cabinet position will do is create more jobs and increase the cost of government.
• Bill, S230, to reduce unnecessary printing costs – a reasonable attempt, but, the end result in the state budget is a savings of pennies.
Unfortunately, fiscal stability can not be accomplished with piece meal legislation. You are right it will take courage on the part of the Legislature and the Governor, however, until the Legislature and the Governor addresses the root cause of the problem all you will continue to do is dig a deeper hole and find the state further in debt.
If there ever was a time for immediate action, the time is now.
The Governor and the Legislature must accept the fact that what is needed is a complete reform of the pension system. No matter what the pain the state must do away with double dipping, a massive reduction in the number of political appointments at all levels of government – state, county and local and at the same time a major reduction in the work force.
The Governor and the Legislature can no longer continue to dance around the real issue confronting all our citizens. Simply put, the issue is an excess of public employees collecting salaries, fringe benefits and pensions that the ordinary citizen and taxpayer never in their lifetime will collect.
It is painfully obvious that what we have here in New Jersey are two groups of citizens. The ordinary citizen who receives a modest pension and health program at retirement and at the other end of the spectrum we have the government employee, the elected officials and appointed officials who retire with excessive five and six figure pensions and health benefits adding an additional five figures to the retirement salary. This alone puts all government employees above the private sector employees; yet they still have a trump card. They have “colas” which increase their benefits every year.
The mission of the Legislature should be to recommend to the Governor that tolls should be increased a nominal amount. These funds should be dedicated to the toll roads to maintain their infrastructure. The funds should not be diverted to any other use.
The Legislature should recommend an increase in the gasoline tax. These funds should be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. They should be used only for the secondary road system.
Finally, all pensions should be placed on the table and the Legislature should bring the pension and benefit system into the 21st century. What the legislature gave; the legislature can take away no matter how painful.
The retirement ages should be reconsidered along with programs such as the 401K type. If corporations can layoff tens of thousands of employees and adjust benefits and pensions; so too can the state take such drastic actions.
We can no longer wait. The time for action is now.
Very truly yours,
Louis C. Ripa, J.D., B.S.C.E.
2008 Taxpayer Rally
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Governor Corzine and the Legislature “junkies” for sure
Having read the plan put forth by Governor Corzine, one has to wonder where he has been since he took office two years ago regarding fiscal responsibility.
While former Governor McGreevy did his best to increase the budget and add to the problems of the citizens of New Jersey; the current Governor has done much of the same.
In reviewing his budget figures over the two year period since taking office the Governor has increased spending by $5 billion an 18% increase. No small amount. Last year, he continued along with funding school construction increasing the state budge by 7% and at the same time giving double-digit raises to judges and prosecutors thereby increasing their pensions dramatically.
In his speech the Governor stated he was fiscally responsible while on the other hand elected officials were not, he cited contract givebacks he negotiated with state employees last year. For the record this amounts to .001 percent of the state budget. It is time for the Governor and the entire Legislature to begin a pattern of “withdrawal” and come into the real world.
During his speech he failed to acknowledge the recommendations put forth by the special-legislative committees last year. His budget for the coming year calls for a small 1.5 % reduction when compared to the 18% increase he approved during his first two years; you can see the savings proposed amount to nothing. A lot of talk yes, but no solution to the real problem.
When will the Governor and the Legislature wake up and realize that we are no longer bleeding we are hemorrhaging and that requires drastic action or the patient will die.
New Jersey ranks in the top ten with regard to number of employees and budgets. What is needed is a complete reform of the pension system—doing away with double dipping, a reduction in the number of political appointments at all levels of government—state, county and local and at the same time a major reduction in force.
The Governor and the Legislature continue to dance around the issue; until they realize the only answer to beginning to balance the budget is to address the real problem—too many public employees collecting salaries, fringe benefits and pensions the ordinary citizen and taxpayer can no longer afford.
Wake up Governor, the time is now or we surely will go into bankruptcy.
Governor, you should increase tolls a nominal amount. These funds should stay with the various agencies to maintain their roads. You should increase the gasoline tax and dedicate those funds to infrastructure projects for all the other road systems. You should no longer take funds from the authorities to solve other problems. The authorities should be self sufficient.
As stated previously, all pensions should be placed on the table and the legislature should bring the pension system into the 21st century. Retirement ages should be reconsidered along with programs such the 401K type. If corporations can layoff tens of thousands of employees and adjust benefits and pensions so to can the state if drastic actions are necessary.
In my opinion the time for action is now.
Louis C. Ripa, J.D., B.S.C.E
Ocean City, NJ