Think your government is unresponsive now, Save Jerseyans? A panel of former high-level state officials, working with the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, is predicting 20% service cuts for the State of New Jersey. You can read the report here.
Bloomberg subsequently ran with the story and outlined some of the group’s key recommendations:
Christie’s aid reduction and tax cap during the first half of his term led mayors to weigh worker firings and program reductions. The moves also forced some of the wealthiest towns in New Jersey, the third-richest U.S. state, to rethink expenses that once seemed routine.
More needs to be done, said the grantmaker report. Potential fixes include collecting a sales tax on Internet purchases, more shared services for governments and school systems, reducing the size of police forces and implementing a county-based school administration, they said.
I haven’t had time yet to examine the entirel report, Save Jerseyans. The panel did make a few great points; for example, like it or not, police benefits and salaries consume huge portions of municipal budgets. Something needs to give.
But I wonder… did the panel consider an out-of-the-box solution: ending the public employee labor unions’ vise grip on New Jersey politics?
Somehow I doubt it.
Hat tip to our old friend Art at MMM for hitting this nail squarely on its head:
In 2010 the unions said no to give backs. Thus, New Jersey suffered increased class sizes and police layoffs in our cities. Crime continues to rise in Newark and Camden, but our elected officials can’t do anything about that because the unions control how many police officers can be hired given the money available to pay them.
New Jersey pays unemployment benefits to laid off police officers not to patrol the streets of our cities, while the high paid officers who kept their jobs do the best they can. There are less extreme examples of needless service cutbacks throughout the state.
Practically speaking, there is no question that New Jersey’s public employees control the government. Not the people. Not the elected officials.
New Jersey’s fiscal crisis could be solved easily if the law of supply and demand were applied to the labor market for government workers. Until that happens, if it ever happens, we will continue to pay more for less.
It doesn’t matter how we restructure government so long as the employees are in charge.
I’d also add that the panel seems to recommend shared services but failed to consider redefining services. In other words, at what one point will a critical mass of individuals acknowledge that government can no longer be “all things to all people.” Otherwise, we have little hope of avoiding the Greece’s fate and that of the other fading European social democracies in its neighborhood.