Immodest Proposals

Jerseyans put forth plenty of novel, even draconian, ideas for chopping the state budget down to size.

Steve Adubato asks NJ residents to comment on how to trim the fat off Governor Jon Corzine's budget.
Illustration by Gregory L. Crippen.

New Jerseyans have been doing a lot of complaining about Governor Jon Corzine’s proposed budget cuts and increases in taxes and fees.

Recently, I wrote a column in another publication asking citizens what they would do about the budget if they were governor. Here is a sample of the replies:

Robert Hartman, Cold Spring: Do away with all grants. It is another word for pork. Examples: over $1 million to rebuild a fire tower in Cape May Point, half a million for a train platform in Buena Vista, $100,000 to map bird trails, money to pay the salary of the director of Lucy the Elephant. The list goes on. Cap the maximum amount someone can collect in all of the state pensions, similar to Social Security. This will stop the padding of salaries in the last few years of service. Eliminate the Secretary of State. Not needed. Abolish the state EPA. It is stifling new business in our state.

D. Watson, Vineland: Reduce all nonessential spending. Arts, humanities, etc. must be cut. Eliminate school aid to all districts unless they implement merit-based pay for teachers. Renegotiate state worker contracts.  Switch the pensions from defined-benefit to defined-contribution. Sell new liquor licenses for small restaurants. This would allow the sale of beer and wine in pizza places, diners, etc. The state would make money on the sale of the license, plus the tax revenue on the liquor.  Plus pizza and beer go well together.

Jim Dalton, Springfield: Eliminate the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The state has no business being in the sports and entertainment business. All of these jobs are high-paying patronage appointments.  Sell off all the properties.  The racetracks don’t make any money anyway.  And that’s not even considering Xanadu. In 2007, the NJSEA had a total operating loss of $106 million.
Similarly, we should eliminate the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and merge these responsibilities into the Department of Transportation. How is it that the DOT can manage thousands of miles of roadways, but we need a separate authority for several hundred miles of Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike?  And do we need a South Jersey Transportation Authority to manage the Atlantic City Expressway and airport?

Donna, Vineland: Do an audit of every government agency and cut every job that is not completely necessary. Get rid of all patronage jobs, cut the amount of money each representative gets to run his or her office, and eliminate government-issued vehicles. Consolidate school districts.  Put the school money into schools and teachers, not the pockets of people in high-paying positions sitting in offices with big pensions. Line-item veto all the pork-barrel items in every bill passed by the Legislature.
Abe Elias, Branchville: Increase the state gasoline tax. Our prices per gallon of gas are among the lowest in the Northeast.

Charles Murray, Raritan: Add a provision to the balanced-budget rule (if you must, send it to an emergency vote and have an election) that allows an exception in case of a recession. This will allow the governor to pass a budget with a deficit, maintaining our most-needed spending and our tax rates and rebates.  If that does not handle the problem, shift a greater burden to those making over $250,000. Mandate a larger tax increase on cigarettes and alcohol. Tax casino owners. And create a special lottery, with proceeds going directly into fixing the budget crisis.

Bill Pack, Little Egg Harbor: Give health care to all state workers but let them pay for their dependents.  And not the Cadillac plans, but health care like we all have. Consolidate all school systems into county-run systems.

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