January 15, 2014
RE: League Report on Governor’s State of the State Message
Yesterday in Trenton, the Governor appeared before a Joint Session of the Legislature to deliver his fourth State of the State Message. (You can access the Governor’s presentation on his website at http://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/552013/approved/20140114k.html.) As is usual on such occasions, the Governor took this opportunity to present a number of his policy priorities for the coming year. And as is usual, there are some that we will enthusiastically support, and others that we will respectfully oppose.
Early on in the speech, Governor Christie recognized the need to give local governments the tools they need to reduce spending and property taxes. We appreciate his support for the following municipal priorities.
- The Governor urged the Legislature to permanently extend the 2% cap on binding arbitration awards beyond the April 1 sunset. This is our #1 priority for the first three months of this year. In our meetings with the Legislative Leaders and with the Governor’s Staff, we have stressed the crucial nature of this matter. We will soon be forwarding a separate letter on this, which will ask for you to get personally involved in this effort.
- The Governor urged the Legislature to recognize the need to allow municipalities to escape from under civil service rules. The Governor noted that the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) lists Civil Service as the most significant deterrent to more shared services and consolidations. We will keep you posted, as civil service relief proposals are introduced.
- The Governor also decried the burden imposed on taxpayers by excessive payouts to retirees for unused sick leave. The Governor supports a complete ban on such payouts, while the Legislature did pass, in the last session, a bill (that was vetoed), which would have limited unused sick leave payments to a maximum of $15,000. We will keep you posted on any developments on this matter, too.
We regret to inform you that the Governor reiterated his support for imposing the levy cap on new user fees, despite the fact that user fees can often benefit local residents. As League 3rd Vice President and Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler noted during his testimony on this issue in December, before the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee, “Almost all units of local government enact user fees to recapture some of the costs for services provided in their community. User fees are at times the best method to pay for any public service. At times it is appropriate to fund some services by user fees, especially those services for which a recipient and a cost can be clearly identified and accurately calculated.”
Legislation to apply the cap to new user fees has already been introduced as S-152. Please contact your Legislators, expressing your concerns with this bill, which would limit appropriate policy flexibility at the municipal level.
Also yesterday in Trenton, new Speaker of the General Assembly Vincent Prieto and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald announced their intention to convene a Task Force to develop property tax relief and reform proposals, for presentation to the voters. League President and Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walter and League First Vice President Gerry Tarantolo, Mayor of Eatontown, have directed us to reach out to these leaders to offer our assistance on this initiative.
Please visit our website at www.njslom.com for links to more information on the State of the State. If you have any questions on these proposals, please reach out to your League staff. Dial 609-695-3481 and: for Government Affairs Director Michael Cerra, ext. 120 (or firstname.lastname@example.org); for Senior Legislative Analyst Lori Buckelew, ext. 112 (or email@example.com); for Staff Attorney Ed Purcell, ext. 137 (or firstname.lastname@example.org); and for Senior Legislative Analyst Jon Moran, ext. 121 (or email@example.com).
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.