More than 100 area residents turned out last night at Mahala F. Atchison Elementary School in Tinton Falls last night for a discussion on Gov. Jon Corzine’s effort to balance the state budge using steep toll-road fare increases, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck of Red Bank and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon of Little Silver, both Republicans, organized the event and presented an alternative plan to Corzine’s, which one poll out this week shows has generated widespread opposition. (Democrat Sen. Raymond Lesniak tells the Star-Ledger today that the plan “is dead as we know it.” And Cozine says he’s willing to consider the first detailed alternative to his plan, offered by Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski.)
From the Press:
Veronica Cozzi, a borough resident, wanted to know why the state couldn’t sell New Jersey’s horse racing tracks to private corporations. And Christopher Cast, also a borough resident, just wanted to know how he could continue to drive 40,000 miles a year on New Jersey’s toll roads without going broke trying to make a living.
Beck and O’Scanlon said they have a solution: no increase in the state budget this year, make cuts in future budgets and restructure the way government business is done.
“If we do these three things, we think, we’re going to come real close to solving our problems,” O’Scanlon said.
More from the Press:
In a presentation lasting about an hour, the lawmakers outlined their plan, which includes a two-thirds reduction in 1,300 “non-essential, political personnel” from the state’s payrolls. That move would save an estimated $50 million, they said.
Beck and O’Scanlon also propose eliminating cost-of-living pay increases for state workers making more than $80,000, for an estimated savings of $116 million, and eliminating a sick leave injury program for state workers. Beck called the program redundant because those employees already are covered by worker’s compensation laws. That move would save $2.5 million, according to the proposal.
Beck and O’Scanlon also propose radical changes to the state pension system, such as eliminating benefits for part-time employees and allowing full-time employees to receive a pension from only one job. The pair estimated savings from those reforms could put $4 billion back into the state’s coffers.
It was a message that was well received by those who attended.
“I think you’re right on the mark with the spending cuts,” said Duane Morrill, a Tinton Falls councilman, echoing the remarks of many who addressed the legislators. “We’re all trying to do more with less. Why can’t Trenton?”
Earlier this week, both the Tinton Falls Board of Education and the Borough Council passed resolutions opposing Corzine’s toll plan, adding to a growing number of municipalities lining up against it.
“The state needs to stop coming up with creative ways to tax us and start looking for new ways to cut spending,” said Council President Michael Skudera during the forum.