Budget negotiations are ongoing under the dome, Save Jerseyans, and things got a little headed today when Democrat Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) inquired of acting Commissioner Kimberley Harrington why the Christie Administration hadn’t addressed the school funding crisis.
“School funding has been a problem that Democrats have been unwilling to address for years,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), the Republican budget officer . “Thankfully they are now talking about the inadequacies of the formula, but they can’t have it both ways. They have to man up and admit that their solutions will result in massive billion dollar tax increases or they need to accept that we need to come together to solve this problem which will unfortunately involve picking winners and losers. But, we as legislators are the folks whose obligation it is to tell the truth. We need to accept that and start doing our jobs.
Greenwald’s comments caused more than a few folks to scratch their heads; while Democrats have largely defended the existing formula, parroting union talking points that it’s “under-funded,” Republicans (ranging from Chris Christie to Jack Ciattarelli) have proposed the only alternatives involving actual reform of the wildly-inequitable formula.
Inequitable doesn’t begin to describe it.
“Simply put, folks, you can’t ‘steal’ something that already belongs to you! State-wide, the average percentage of property taxes spent on schools is 52%,” Save Jersey‘s Matt Rooney explained last summer. “In New Jersey’s 31 School Development Authority (SDA) districts? Only 26%. Students in SDA districts receive 5-times more state aid than students in non-SDA districts; that’s because suburban taxpayers are propping up school districts in cities that aren’t serving urban children. Defending a system that spends $30k per year, per K-12 child in Camden but produces only THREE college-ready high school seniors is, in of itself, an indefensible act.”
Where are the Democrats’ solutions? The Republican Assemblyman, running for State Senate this year, proceeded to chastise his Democrat colleagues for a decided lack of seriousness.
“The fact is we have a $4 to $6 billion budget hole. We are not going to magically find another $1 or $2 billion to fully fund the formula,” O’Scanlon continued. “We need responsible and essential reforms to state health benefits and pension systems, but the assemblyman and his fellow Democrats are so far unwilling to admit that. They claim we have already reformed the systems. Yes, we have made some progress, but more reforms are needed. The longer they put off that discussion, the more painful the solution will be for taxpayers and public employees who pay taxes as well.”
“All that being said, I accept Majority Leader Greenwald’s challenge to work together to solve the undeniable problem of school funding. He has been a good partner in the past. I look forward to working with him again now and going forward.”