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FROM 222 WEST STATE STREET
Bill Dressel, League Executive Director

 

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Bill Dressel

Just about now, thousands of American Shad, out in the Atlantic Ocean, are getting a little twinkle in their eyes. In a couple of months, the spawning run will bring them, heads up, against the spring flood current of the wild and scenic Delaware. They should climb the falls and reach Trenton just as the state budget debates really begin to heat up.

A new Governor comes to Trenton this month.

He’ll have his work cut out for him, too. As with any new leader, the first task is to get everyone moving in the same direction. If you accomplish that feat, you’ve done a lot. Only when you’ve overcome inertia can you, like the shad, begin to set a course toward your objective. And all along that route, Governor Christie, his Administration and the Legislature will, like the shad, face some awesome obstacles.

In September, 2009 the state’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent—up from 5.8 percent the year before. New vehicle registrations were down 23.1 percent from September, 2008. And residential building permits had fallen by 43.9 percent. Virtually every economic statistic that you’d hope would be up was down. While every indicator you’d hope to be down was up.

And then, there’s the state budget. In November, Governor Corzine directed his cabinet to provide $400 million in savings options to the Treasurer by December 1. Revenue collections were coming in below targets. That trend was expected to continue, as the national economic recession placed pressure on spending for critical safety net programs like Medicaid. The Governor also directed his cabinet to maintain a hiring freeze and strict restrictions on travel. He also ordered the continuation of the review of all purchases and contracts by the State Treasurer to limit spending to only those transactions that are absolutely necessary. In addition, the Governor directed the State Treasurer to look at spending in areas that cut across departments for added savings.

This budget was, already, $4 billion less than the previous year’s. And that budget for FY 2009 had already absorbed over $2 billion in mid-year reductions, due to revenue collection declines.

And we haven’t even mentioned property taxes.

Local officials have pledged to work with Governor Christie and the Legislature. They believe they can help. We know they can and we hope they are given the chance.

Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 1, January 2010

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