Is It Time to Eliminate County Government in New Jersey?

Is It Time to Eliminate County Government in New Jersey?

By Martin Marks | The Save Jersey Blog

In light of the recent revelation that the Union County Alliance, a not-for-profit organization almost entirely funded by taxpayer dollars, rewarded a vendor with nearly $1.5M over four years for nothing more than a twice per year newsletter, scrutiny of county government in Save Jerseyland and elsewhere has been amped up. Here’s one take.

new jersey county mapAs a mayor, and more importantly as a taxpayer, I always got an unfortunate chuckle at this time of year as I watched our municipal snow plows doing their thing on our municipal roads only to lift those plows upon encountering a county road within our borders. Those plows would once again descend to the unplowed white stuff once the next nearby municipal road was engaged.

It was then only a matter of time before the Union County snow plows would come rumbling in to service the county thoroughfares within our Township and work this comical and wasteful dance in reverse.

It is probably more likely, Save Jerseyans, that you have decried the now 565 municipalities in our state and the premise that “home rule” leads to a substantial waste of taxpayer resources. And while you might be onto something, there are studies out there and real life examples that show that larger and consolidated isn’t necessarily more efficient.

I would like to put forth the premise that instead of reducing that 565 number through consolidation, we should instead consider reducing another important number: (21) which is the number of counties in the Garden State.

In fact, I would propose that number be brought to zero. To maintain two levels of taxing government entities (county and municipal) that duplicate services on a scale much larger than the example cited above is, for lack of a better term, TAXING. Now, in more rural and less densely populated states across the fruited plain, a stronger centralized county government makes more sense. However, in the most densely populated state in the union if we are looking to pare government, I aver that municipal government is the smarter choice to maintain and county government should be cast upon the dust heap of history.

Union County, New Jersey
Union County, New Jersey

There is precedence for this, Save Jerseyans. A little more than 50 years ago, our neighbors to the north in Connecticut abolished county government by an act of their state legislature. While there were some bumps in the road and adjustments to be made, our buddies from the Nutmeg State don’t seem to miss county government much. And if we followed the Connecticuters” lead here in New Jersey, the responsibilities heretofore assigned to county government could be ceded to the State (the court system, for one) or the municipality (roads and parks, for two).

And here is the added bonus: You know as well as I (or maybe you don’t) that here in NJ, county government in particular is a hotbed for patronage, nepotism, sinecures, and downright corruption by BOTH Democrats and Republicans. Eliminating county government would be certain to reduce these banes for honest, hardworking taxpayers like us. But alas Save Jerseyans, these banes might be the very reason that New Jersey politicians will never consider the elimination of such a cash cow.

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Is It Time to Eliminate County Government in New Jersey?

  1. This had been discussed for years and candidates have run on it….but it never went anywhere. It will never happen in NJ. Massachusetts has tried to do this with only a modicum of success and their taxes are still astronomical.

  2. Time to cut the 565 mubicipalities and 611 school districts into 1/3 of thst number. In the process combine our five northeastern counties into one mega city similar to what Naw Yawk did 100 years ago. Instead we have these postage stamp size towns and cities.

    Is Indianapolis really such a huge city compared to Newark? NO – the ONLY reason why Indianapolis is considered such a large city, as with most cities in the US, is because they contain all their suburbs surrounding them. Indianapolis is 500 square miles versus Newark’s 23 square miles.

    Indianapolis is actually not much different than New Brunswick with a couple of tall buildings surrounding the downtown circle.

  3. As a former Burlington County Freeholder why should I want to get ride of county government. We have worked very hard to reduce taxes (28 million last 5 years) while maintaining services. We’re the leader in farm preservation in the state, 7th in the nation and for the 5th year will give 5 million dollars in recreational grants to towns within the county. There are other Counties in the state that are doing a great job as well. Let’s not judge the whole book by just one chapter.

  4. I agree with Joe. We would be better off eliminating municipal governments and just have 21 county governments.

  5. strenghthen county government by giving it responsibility for the public schools. can eliminate lots of layers and excess administrators. let the local government be responsible for things like garbage pick up. local streets, etc. But will never happen as too much political patronage is at stake.

  6. Freeholder Howarth, I am certain you and your fellow freeholders have done an outstanding job in Burlington County. That however has little to do with the purpose of my essay. My point is that having BOTH municipal and county governments in many cases leads to redundancies and waste. Why not do away with one level of government as Connecticut did? If you could make a cogent argument that eliminating municipal government in favor of an efficient county government makes better sense for the Garden State, I’d be willing to listen.

  7. Id be all for more county government. They seem to be a lot more functional than the municipal hall monitors we have now. However i think 21 allows for too.much territory in nj. There would realistically need to be around 80-100 counties to male make it actually work.

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