A war of words between state legislators and Red Bank officials over recent pay raises for borough employees continued yesterday.
Twelfth-district Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Little Silver Republican, fired back at the all-Democrat Red Bank Council with a letter that challenged the fiscal sense of granting annualized 3-percent salary and wage increases to non-unionized workers.
“We understand that Red Bank municipal employees are hard-working individuals and it would be wonderful if they could all get raises,” O’Scanlon writes in the letter, which was shared with redbankgreen late Wednesday. “But that simply isn’t prudent – and sends the wrong message to our constituents – when the people paying the bills are making less, or losing their jobs all together.”
So far, the GOP three have made no public mention of the two-year, 6-percent increases the borough previously granted to the two unions it bargains with: the Policemens Benevolent Association and the Communication Workers of America.
The tiff began earlier this month, when O’Scanlon and fellow Republicans state Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande sent a letter to the council rejecting its call for help in getting special consideration from the administration of Gov. Chris Christie as he prepares to slash state aid to towns and cities.
That prompted borough Democrats to fire back earlier this week with a charge that the Republicans were refusing to advocate for the borough in Trenton.
Here’s O’Scanlon’s reply:
While I can understand the frustration that the Mayor and Council of Red Bank Borough feel given the budget restraints they, and all other government officials throughout the State, are facing during this budget crisis, I take issue with being accused of refusing to advocate for our constituents in Red Bank. I and my colleagues, Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, make it our top priority to advocate for the municipalities, school districts and individuals whom we represent. We work tirelessly in that pursuit. The three of us could not be more in the forefront of the efforts to solve our present financial crisis, while also fighting for the interests of our beleaguered taxpayers. We understand the impact of non-profit/tax exempt properties both on municipal services and budgets. We too believe that we must take the concentration of such entities into account when considering State budget solutions. Additionally we are aware of the positive steps the mayor and governing body of Red Bank have taken to date to balance their budget – and we applaud those efforts. But at the same time, we have to be straight with each other and our constituents. The fiscal crisis we now collectively face mandates drastic action – and provides us with an opportunity to fix the grossly irresponsible fiscal policies that have led us to this point.
Our last letter was meant as a reminder that all levels of government must be fiscally responsible in order to face down this current economic crisis. Mr. DuPont’s mischaracterization and criticism of our call for all elected officials to act prudently with our collective finances – our constituents’ hard-earned money – lacks the understanding that this is a difficult year to justify raises in the public sector when the private sector is continuing to lay off workers and freeze wages. Is that unfortunate? Absolutely. We understand that Red Bank municipal employees are hard-working individuals and it would be wonderful if they could all get raises. But that simply isn’t prudent – and sends the wrong message to our constituents – when the people paying the bills are making less, or losing their jobs all together. As a member of the budget committee, I can say without reservation that there is not a single municipality or school district that will be untouched by the necessary, but difficult, budgetary decisions. Whether those decisions are made at the State, County or Local levels, they have to be made. I believe that the public is not only ready to hear that, but they have been longing for some elected officials willing to tell them the truth, do what needs to be done and solve the problems that have been building over years of irresponsible spending of their money. I would like to reiterate the need for cooperation and shared sacrifice at all levels. It’s not easy, but we cannot keep going about business as usual if we ever want to regain the public’s trust and confidence, and fix New Jersey’s budget crisis once and for all.
It’s time for public officials at all levels and on both sides of the political aisle to come to grips with the serious issues we face, and to come together to solve them. We stand ready to do just that and look forward to working with the Red Bank governing body.
Assemblyman Declan J. O’Scanlon, Jr.