July 19, 2010: Public Employees: Are they overpaid?

State and local government budgets are under severe strain. Rather than blame the world-wide recession, which has caused tax revenues […]

July 12, 2010: The Cap: Is it really a solution to high property taxes?

Today the State Assembly passed the latest version of New Jersey’s newest attempt at a property tax limitation: a 2.0 percent hard cap on property tax levy increases that provides just four exemptions for exceeding the limit – health care costs, pension costs, debt and unforeseen crises. The bill represents a compromise worked out between Gov. Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The Governor had been pushing for a 2.5 percent cap that would be written into the state constitution, which would virtually guarantee the cap would never be changed. The Governor also wanted to allow for only one exemption (for debt service) and wanted a 60 percent voter referendum to override the cap.

July 5, 2010: Family Leave Insurance gets high marks on first anniversary

The dynamics of work and family have changed drastically in the past 50 years. In today’s shaky economic climate, it’s not unusual for working parents to juggle one or more jobs to make ends meet, leaving less time for family caregiving responsibilities.

New Jersey has worked to strengthen state policies for working families and became a leader among states by implementing Family Leave Insurance last year. Signed into law by former Gov. Jon Corzine, Family Leave Insurance gives workers up to six weeks of paid benefits to care for sick family members or to bond with newborn and newly-adopted children. New Jersey is only the second state (after California) to offer this type of paid leave.

June 28, 2010: Why the Budget Falls Short For Vulnerable Families

There has been much fanfare regarding the restoration of a few programs that serve vulnerable people in the FY 2011 budget. But make no mistake; the budget expected to pass the Legislature today requires the greatest sacrifice from vulnerable working families hit hardest by the recession.

Let’s put the restorations in perspective. They amount to about $68 million, not including PAAD which was restored in an earlier separate agreement, in a budget which would spend just over $28 billion. As the governor’s chief of staff pointed out, these restorations amount to only about two-tenths of a percent (.02%) of the total state budget. He thought that was a good thing.

June 21, 2010: What Is Sacrificed?

The Legislature will soon act on the emaciated $28.3 billion FY2011 budget proposal submitted in March by Gov. Christie, who told lawmakers in his budget address that the state’s dire economic situation necessitated deep cuts to every corner of state government and demanded shared sacrifice by all New Jerseyans,

Clearly, the recession is taking a tremendous toll on state and local finances. In New Jersey, where the constitution requires a balanced budget by July 1, the state has lost $6 billion in revenue from income, sales, corporate and other taxes the past two years, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. In each of the past three fiscal years, the state budget has declined in its actual dollar amount, from $33.5 billion to $32.9 billion in 2009; to $29.8 billion in 2010; to the proposed $28.3 billion in 2011. Treasury Department records show that a decline in state spending from one year to the next is unprecedented in the modern history of New Jersey, let alone three smaller budgets in succession.