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Bill Dressel, League Executive Director


The Tools Must Be Put Into Ready Hands

Bill Dressel

By the time you read this, Lieutenant Governor Guadagno’s Red Tape Review Group will have presented their report of items for action to the Governor and the Legislature. By the end of this month, the Governor’s Privatization Task Force will present its final report and recommendations. As we write this, that leaves one part of the puzzle unaccounted for.

When he unveiled his proposed budget, the Governor recognized the need for new management tools for local leaders. Accordingly, he talked about a new “Governor’s Tool Kit to Meet Today’s Fiscal Challenges.” This tool kit is intended to provide “long overdue…mandate relief and regulatory flexibility for beleaguered towns and schools.” It is supposed to include, a constitutional cap on property tax increases, a constitutional cap on increases in spending for direct State government services, collective bargaining reform, pension and benefits reform, civil service reform, and management reform.

With grave concerns about the practical implications of the proposed 2.5% cap, we thank Governor Christie for talking about advancing a set of proposals that would allow local officials to reign in some of the major cost drivers of local budgets. Many of these initiatives, such as pension, interest arbitration and civil service reforms, have long been championed by the League. Coupled with reforms recommended by Lieutenant Governor Guadagno’s Red Tape Review Group and Congressman Zimmer’s Privatization Task Force, these reforms could begin to allow local officials to craft more efficient, effective and economical programs and policies.

But unless the toolbox is opened soon, there will be no chance for the Legislature to act to put these tools in the hands of local officials in time to help them to help their fellow citizens this year. And absent that, drastic cuts in vital municipal services are inevitable.

We are, therefore, pleased to report that we have learned that the kit will be opened early this month—perhaps by the time you read this.

Tools in the box can do no good. They need to be in the hands of local leaders. Facing draconian cuts in property tax relief funding, nothing can be more important to our property taxpayers.

Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 5, May 2010

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