The Revolution Begins in New Jersey

Posted on 21 April 2010

In what could be the brush fire that ultimately engulfs an entire forest, New Jersey voters turned out in surprising numbers yesterday to defeat proposed school budgets throughout the state.  With reported turnouts of more than double the previous year, New Jerseyans gave a resounding “No” to more than 55% of all proposed budgets statewide.  In some counties, such as Somerset and Hunterdon, virtually all proposed school budgets were defeated.

In a typical year, voters approve approximately 70% of all school budgets.  This year, however, concerned by escalating property taxes (among the nation’s highest) and a continuing economic downturn, voters eschewed the pleas of local school boards and officials.  Additionally, the election results send a clear message to elected officials at the local, county, and state levels that the New Jersey populace agrees with Governor Chris Christie that it is time to tackle the heretofore untamed monster of rising salaries and costs associated with providing benefits and pensions to educators and government workers that threatens to rob future generations of their American dreams.

Pension and health insurance obligations for retirees from school districts, police departments, municipalities, and county and state government loom as drags on future economic growth and shackles on future taxpaying citizens of New Jersey.  To make matters worse, many of these same people may choose ultimately to leave the State after they retire, selecting for their residences low-tax states that have been more fiscally responsible and have not mortgaged their futures on unfunded pensions and other liabilities.

When the bill on these future liabilities comes due, the taxpaying residents and businesses of this State – if there are any – will certainly be less than happy that decades past of elected, appointed, and hired officials and leaders have squandered tens of billions of taxpayer dollars for fear of being branded as anti-education, anti-law enforcement, anti-environment, or any of a number of other “sacred cows” that have been created in this State and elsewhere.  Those future residents will wish that previous holders of the public trust had taken on the unions and entrenched interests that too often dictate policy in our State, reduced expenditures, eliminated excesses, and funded mandates.

The reality is that there is but a tenuous connection between dollars spent on taxpayer-funded programs and results.  If spending money could produce results, the schools in Newark, Elizabeth, and Camden, to name but a few districts, would be producing world-class scholars.  Sadly, taxpayer dollars are to those who spend them nothing more than “other people’s money.”  A significant proportion of school budgets past have been spent on infrastructure including artificial turf playing fields and other athletic facilities that rival those in professional sports.  While such facilities may be desirable, their impact on student education is dubious.  School administrators and government officials at all levels need to treat such expenditures as if the funds used were their own.  Were that the case, we would surely witness a level of fiscal responsibility heretofore unseen in our State.

And so, as taxpayers we can hope with some justification that the 2010 school budget elections may provide the spark to help us begin to retake control of our shared financial destiny.  Sweeping changes are needed, as well as leaders with the fortitude to propose and oversee them.  It is not, however, easy or painless to oppose a “sacred cow,” much less the herd with which we are faced.  If we as a State do not seize this opportunity, however, many of us will be among the retired teachers, police officers, and New Jersey government employees who relocate to Delaware, North Carolina, or another state that has been more diligent with its taxpayers’ money. 

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8 Responses to “The Revolution Begins in New Jersey”

  1. Jack S. Fogbound says:

    Heavy is the head that wears the crown,when it comes to caring for the citizens of New Jersey. Governor Christie has grabbed the tiger by the tail when he said he would bring fiscal responsibility to one of the highest taxed states in the union if elected. Now that the process has begun to cut or freeze state programs have already drawn criticism. The facts are clear, the state cannot print money it has to adhere to a strict budget and when that money is spent it will have to wait for the next fiscal year for new funds, just like the head of the household has to budget the earned money to survive. Sometimes they may have to cut non-essential items to make ends meet, it’s simple as that. Now that we are living in trying times we as citizens should consider an austere plan that holds a brighter future and return to fiscal sanity

  2. Liscio says:

    A great start.

  3. Marya Eiden says:

    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post.

  4. Nicola Farrucia says:

    I understand why we ALL have to pay for the salaries of the police and the firemen. I don’t understand why civil servants get pay raises when the rest of us don’t or are out of jobs. But what really, really burns me up is the fact that those of us who do not have children have to pay for the school systems, including technology, repairs to schools, and the eternal pay raises of the teachers and the school admins. I say that those who want to have babies pay for their education, not the rest of us hard working taxpayers.

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  6. HSC says:

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  7. Kary Luzi says:

    I’ll be back again, thanks for the info.

  8. Hell's Raider says:

    Great article. Thanks.

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