Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Garden State's financial mess- would other states learn?

New Jersey Governor wants your input to cut spending;

Governor Corzine welcomes the opportunity to consider your recommendations for spending cuts for the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget.

For Comment: What do you think about the 'Management Efficiencies' (chapter 3 of the budget).

New Jersey’s Dilemma: Raise More Revenue or Cut Spending?
Forced to choose among an array of unpopular methods for raising new revenue — New Jersey is already one of the nation’s highest-taxed states — Mr. Corzine put forth a plan that relied on truly massive toll increases. It ran into heated opposition from lawmakers of both parties in this heavily car-dependent state.

How unpopular was Mr. Corzine’s proposal to boost tolls? A survey released last week by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute showed 73 percent of New Jerseyans opposing it. Also taking a hit: Mr. Corzine’s approval rating, which has plunged to just 37 percent.

Mr. Corzine acknowledged last week that his toll hike plan does not have enough support to pass the state legislature.

Now, he seems to be changing course. Opponents of the toll hikes, especially conservatives, have been insisting that what the state really needs is not more revenue but cuts in government spending. In his budget message tomorrow, according to reports in The Times and numerous New Jersey newspapers, Mr. Corzine will give what they’re asking for.

Among the possible cuts: a shutdown of some state parks; spending rollbacks that would force tuition hikes at state colleges and universities; reductions in aid to hospitals; elimination of property tax rebates for middle income families; laying off 3,000 to 4,000 state employees; and the elimination of three cabinet-level departments.

Administration insiders say these cuts are needed just to bring next year’s budget into balance. But the cuts also carry a clear warning that more painful steps may be necessary if the legislature does not give Mr. Corzine at least a version of the revenue-raising package he wants.

A very rare budget speech;

It’s certainly not a budget designed to please … I can tell from the applause lines… but it is a prudent blueprint to meet difficult economic circumstances, correct past mistakes and it lays a foundation for a responsible future.

It doesn’t spend more than we have.

It doesn’t borrow to pay operating costs.

It doesn’t raise taxes.

It does contain the largest increase in school aid ever;

It does preserve property tax relief for the middle class; and it does protect the most vulnerable in our society.

It meets the public’s expectations that government live within its means.

Make no mistake -- this is a turning point … not the end point.

By itself, these cuts won't solve the problem. They can’t.

A long term answer requires deeper changes.

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