As we have been highlighting this week, the New Jersey Legislature is back at work in the lame duck session of 2011. Instead of doing anything worth while, legislators are working on a bunch of regulatory nanny state proposals that do nothing for the average New Jerseyan or the economy.
Two municipalities, on Election Day, took it upon themselves to make a strong statement for governmental reform, doing more with that vote than the entire legislature will do in the final weeks of the year. Princeton Township and Princeton Borough, an admittedly stupid separation in the first place, are now set to become one municipal unit and will likely save a tremendous amount of money by consolidating all of their services. The consolidation will likely be complete by the beginning of 2013.
Governor Christie went to Princeton yesterday to praise the towns for moving forward with a common sense plan that will have a direct impact on the property taxes of their residents, something our state level elected officials seemingly refuse to do. More municipalities need to look at this option to curb property tax increases. There are 566 local governments in New Jersey, and there is no reason that there needs to be. Numerous towns are completely surrounded by other towns, many small townships, through some idiotic sense of local pride, choose to double up on services that could easily be shared with neighboring towns (if they must remain separate) and stick their taxpayers with the bill.
In addition to praising the consolidation and encouraging more, the Governor also turned his attention to the legislature to push for Civil Service Reform in the lame duck session. Christie feels that Civil Service Rules and collective bargaining rights are redundant and causes significant waste in our local governments. Since he has consistently come out in favor of preserving collective bargaining rights, the obvious position he takes is that the civil service rules need to go, or at least be substantially reformed. He referred to the pairing as akin to wearing both a belt and suspenders. Christie also touted sick time reform as another way to cut costs and bring property tax relief to home owners.
While scrapping civil service rules would make it easier for towns to consolidate and share services, it also opens up some issues of political hiring, nepotism, cronyism, etc. If the issue is taken up by the Assembly or Senate (yeah right…) they should attempt to preserve the rules the protect the system from abuse of politicians.