407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

The following article appeared in the January 14, 2005 issue of the Trenton Times newspaper.

Support grows for tax session spending review

Friday, January 14.2005

By MARK PERKISS
Staff Writer

A constitutional convention on the state's property tax system should include an examination of state government spending, a top Democratic lawmaker told an Assembly committee considering the issue.

Assemblyman Joseph Roberts, the Assembly majority leader, who last month voted in favor of a task force report that called for a convention to consider only how New Jersey raises tax revenue, told the State Government Committee he has had a change of heart

Roberts, D-Bellrnawr, the prime sponsor of a bill based on the task force's report, said he was willing to support a limited examination of spending. He said he would favor changes that "would make spending part of the convention's scope without getting bogged down in counterproductive social spending issues, court mandates and constitutional guarantees."

Doing that, he said, would help ensure that reforms made by the convention are permanent

Republicans have insisted that spending issues must be included as part of any convention plan, which will need to be approved by voters for a convention to take place.

"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that this opportunity of a century - a major constitutional convention in New Jersey - succeeds and is viewed by our citizens as legitimate," Roberts told the committee during a hearing that lasted almost four hours. The committee did not vote on the legislation.

Much of the testimony before the committee and among lawmakers centered on whether the convention should be allowed to make changes to the way the state spends money or if it should be limited to dealing only with how tax revenue is collected.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris Township, insisted the convention open up the entire state constitution and make changes to overturn school funding decisions by the state Supreme Court as well as doing away with the constitutional requirement the state provide students a "thorough and efficient" education.

Carroll yesterday said there should be no state funding of education. "If Newark can't afford to spend as much as Princeton or some other wealthy town, too bad. That's the nice thing about living in a wealthy town and the downside of living in Newark."

Carroll dominated yesterday's hearing, baiting witnesses by repeatedly asking what specific constitutional changes a convention should make. "Surely you have some thoughts you could give us," he said to South Bound Brook Mayor Jo-Anne Schubert, the past president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and a member of the task force.

Schubert and other supporters said a constitutional convention is needed because the

Legislature has failed repeatedly to take steps to change the way schools and municipalities are funded.

"If the Legislature had acted, we would not be here," Torn O'Neill, a member of the Coalition for the Public Good, a group headed by former Sen. Bill Schluter told the panel.

Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Clinton, the Senate Republican leader who served on the task force with Roberts, said he was pleased with the assemblyman's decision to support including an examination of spending by the convention. "It's a move in the right direction but the devil is in the details," he said.

The convention is opposed by a diverse array of interest groups, including the New Jersey Education Association, the powerful statewide teachers' union, and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the state's largest busi NJLM - Trenton Times Article
407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

The following article appeared in the January 14, 2005 issue of the Trenton Times newspaper.

Support grows for tax session spending review

Friday, January 14.2005

By MARK PERKISS
Staff Writer

A constitutional convention on the state's property tax system should include an examination of state government spending, a top Democratic lawmaker told an Assembly committee considering the issue.

Assemblyman Joseph Roberts, the Assembly majority leader, who last month voted in favor of a task force report that called for a convention to consider only how New Jersey raises tax revenue, told the State Government Committee he has had a change of heart

Roberts, D-Bellrnawr, the prime sponsor of a bill based on the task force's report, said he was willing to support a limited examination of spending. He said he would favor changes that "would make spending part of the convention's scope without getting bogged down in counterproductive social spending issues, court mandates and constitutional guarantees."

Doing that, he said, would help ensure that reforms made by the convention are permanent

Republicans have insisted that spending issues must be included as part of any convention plan, which will need to be approved by voters for a convention to take place.

"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that this opportunity of a century - a major constitutional convention in New Jersey - succeeds and is viewed by our citizens as legitimate," Roberts told the committee during a hearing that lasted almost four hours. The committee did not vote on the legislation.

Much of the testimony before the committee and among lawmakers centered on whether the convention should be allowed to make changes to the way the state spends money or if it should be limited to dealing only with how tax revenue is collected.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris Township, insisted the convention open up the entire state constitution and make changes to overturn school funding decisions by the state Supreme Court as well as doing away with the constitutional requirement the state provide students a "thorough and efficient" education.

Carroll yesterday said there should be no state funding of education. "If Newark can't afford to spend as much as Princeton or some other wealthy town, too bad. That's the nice thing about living in a wealthy town and the downside of living in Newark."

Carroll dominated yesterday's hearing, baiting witnesses by repeatedly asking what specific constitutional changes a convention should make. "Surely you have some thoughts you could give us," he said to South Bound Brook Mayor Jo-Anne Schubert, the past president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and a member of the task force.

Schubert and other supporters said a constitutional convention is needed because the

Legislature has failed repeatedly to take steps to change the way schools and municipalities are funded.

"If the Legislature had acted, we would not be here," Torn O'Neill, a member of the Coalition for the Public Good, a group headed by former Sen. Bill Schluter told the panel.

Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Clinton, the Senate Republican leader who served on the task force with Roberts, said he was pleased with the assemblyman's decision to support including an examination of spending by the convention. "It's a move in the right direction but the devil is in the details," he said.

The convention is opposed by a diverse array of interest groups, including the New Jersey Education Association, the powerful statewide teachers' union, and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the state's largest business lobby group.

To have a referendum on the November ballot to call a constitutional convention. Roberts' bill and accompanying legislation would have to be passed by the Legislature and signed into law by August. The convention would meet in 2006 and its recommendations would have to be approved by voters.

NOTE: Contact Mark Perkiss at mperkiss@njtimes.com or at (609) 943-5727.

 

 

 

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