Governor Jon S. Corzine
March 6, 2008
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GOVERNOR’S REMARKS TO LOCAL OFFICIALS AS DELIVERED
TRENTON - The following is the text of Governor Corzine’s taped remarks to local officials at meeting held today to discuss proposed cuts to municipal aid in the FY09 budget:
“Hello my friends, let me begin by apologizing for my absence today, but a previous commitment in Atlantic City makes it impossible for me to be with you. I know Commissioner Doria and Treasurer Rousseau can ably stand in for me.
“Let me start by saying given the state’s weak financial condition I’ve been forced to propose a painful budget with deep cuts totaling almost $2.7 billion. I know you can appreciate the situation of a tough budget from your own perspective.
“These cuts will affect all aspects of government, as you know more than 3,000 job cuts will occur, the elimination of three state departments, and cuts to every department in State government. It’s unprecedented.
“In that context, my proposed cuts in local aid are part of a broader belt-tightening. An approach we must take in my view to address our fiscal crisis. And as you’re probably aware 75% of state spending is represented by grants and aid in pass-through funding for a lot of worthy purposes. Purposes like higher education, charity care or property tax rebates and municipal aid.
“Regrettably if we’re going to balance our budget and we don’t have the funds coming in to do otherwise we need to cut in all of the areas that I mentioned. And we will.
“The fact is, New Jersey has a government its people cannot afford.
“There are 566 municipalities, 616 school districts, 486 local authorities, and 186 fire districts or companies. So many governing units that it’s like our debt, it creates a structural financial challenge and unfortunately you’re going to feel some of that in this year’s budget.
“As I hosted town-hall meetings in the past few months, I have heard time and again from citizens that the size of government, and I’m not just talking about the state, the size of government, and often home rule, is hurting taxpayers and raising their cost of living.
“This refrain has been repeated time and again for decades in New Jersey. The structure of our municipal cuts reflects a policy view that we should address this concern this long standing debate. While we’re proposing cuts for our smaller municipalities we’re also offering almost equal offsets to implement shared service agreements to facilitate consolidation. Joe and David will talk more about that.
“I know the cuts are a tough pill to swallow for small communities.
“And I’ve heard many of you argue that it will lead to property tax hikes as a result. I respectfully disagree.
“There is no reason that consequence is inevitable. Some local cuts may well be warranted.
“But more importantly I actually think the proposed cuts in local aid present all of us an opportunity to share services, eliminate overlapping tasks, and renegotiate contracts..
“I commend the many communities and leaders who embrace shared services and are making tough choices and there are a lot of you who are doing this.
“Great efforts in Somerset County, Gloucester County and a lot of the communities that are embedded there, I could go around the state, there are a number of examples, but we need more.
“To help implement those initiatives more broadly the Legislature and I initiated last year as you’re well aware, the “Local Unit Realignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission”. The so-called BRAC commission, to study consolidation opportunities and make specific recommendations for moving forward. We’re working very closely with DCA on this.
“I look forward to your input into this Commission. Working together we can shrink the size and the cost of government and fix our broken state finances. I suspect all of you are as committed as I am to the objectives of providing our citizens with a government they can afford. I hope you have a great discussion with Dave and Joe and I look forward to joining up with you in the days and weeks ahead.”
Photos from Governor Corzine's public events are available
in the Governor's Newsroom section on the State of New Jersey web page, http://www.nj.gov/governor/news/