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Old 06-08-2012, 03:09 PM
 
14,781 posts, read 38,764,617 times
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Building on a conversation in the "New Jersey Comeback" thread, I had the idea to start this thread to solicit peoples real ideas about what they would do if they were the governor of NJ.

Now, the trick here is that most governors and presidents have a limited amount of political capital to spend in each election cycle to get things done. Generally most are lucky to achieve 3-4 major intiatives or changes. So, here's your scenario...

You just got elected governor of NJ. It doesn't matter what party you are from, but your party has a simple majority in the Legislature to help you get things done. The situation laid out before you is the exact one that exists today. Don't consider pending legislation like the tax cut/property tax rebate as having happened. Your goal is to get as much done in your term as possible, which means 3-4 major initiatives. Chances are you might not be re-elected, so that's all you get. (For fun, maybe if enough posters like your ideas, you'll get another term and you can propose 3-4 more.)

So, what are your 3-4 major ideas on changes that can be made in NJ to provide the greatest impact to the state? Provide details, not just one sentence answers and think about how you would get it done, what the impact might be and why these issues are the most important ones.

Here are mine:

1. I would get my buddies in the Legislature to propose an amendment to the state constitution. This amendment would reword the sections on education funding to require the state to fund all districts equally on a per student basis. So, each district receives a set amount of money per student. This will eliminate the inequalities in financing among districts and allow them to better plan their spending.

It also completely unravels the entire series of Abbott decisions and treats each district as it's own entity and equal in the eyes of the state. Currently $5 billion of the total $8 billion allocated for state K-12 education funding in the last budget is making it's way to the Abbott districts. By equally distributing that money, all schools would essentially see an increase of around $2,000 in state aid per pupil. That is enough to effect a roughly 12% DECREASE in school property taxes (based on average cost of per pupil education) while maintaining current levels. Since the largest component of property taxes is school funding, this would result in a minimum of a 5%-7% decrease in property taxes for NJ homeowners.

2. Continuing the education reform half of my agenda, I would pass a law that would standardize teacher pay and benefits across the state. Instead of each local district negotiating individually, the negotiations will be handled collectively by the state DOE and the teachers unions. The scale will mean that a teacher in district A with the same qualifications and years of service as one in district B and teaching the same subject will be paid the same rate. This will stabilize education costs and not allow the teachers union to pit district against district in negotiations to exact higher pay.

Teachers health benefits will no longer be purchased at the district level, instead teachers will receive benefits from a general risk pool that covers all teachers. Teachers will contribute a fixed amount to the cost of benefits and all teachers in the state will receive the same benefits package at the same costs.

The entire point of this is not to punish teachers, but to undermine the power of the teachers union and not allow them to leverage local districts. The local districts will recieve must greater cost control and assurance as well as a significant savings in benefits cost. They will also not be able to be threatened by strikes and held hostage by contract negotiations. The benefit to the teachers is that it will allow teachers to seek jobs anywhere in the state assured of maintaining their same pay. They can base their decision on where to teach by the environment of the school and where they want to be. No longer will "rich" districts" be able to pay obscene amounts and monopolize the teaching pool which has cascade effects on other districts as the higher pay of a neighboring district is leveraged in negotiations.

3. I would enact legislation to allow businesses to deduct investment costs in NJ from their state tax liabilities. If you expand operations, build a new building, overhaul an existing one, etc. you can deduct that cost against your tax liabilities to the state. For investments into "critical economic areas" such as Camden, Newark, Jersey City, etc. the deductions would be dollar for dollar and usable over a period of 10 years. For investments not in these areas, the rate would be .50 cents on the dollar and usable over 5 years.

Within that, I would also allow them to deduct the cost of hiring, basically one year of salary, of all NJ residents hired to work on the same basis. Dollar for dollar for jobs in the designated areas and .50 cents on the dollar elsewhere. The deductions would be usable over 2 years and only apply to net increases in hiring.

Added into that (kind of a separate idea, but whatever), I would allow businesses in NJ who hire someone currently receiving unemployment benefits, to receive a cash payout equal to 13 weeks of that persons unemployment benefits when the person reaches their one year anniversary employed with the company to incentify and offset the cost of hiring. It would also greatly incentify the companies to hire the unemployed instead of shunning them in favor of the already employed.

I do not have numbers to prove it all out, but while the costs may seem high, the added economic activity and revenue through income tax from increased hiring should pay for most of the program.

4. I would create a property tax relief fund that would work by incentifying local governments to cut property taxes. For every net dollar saved in a towns municipal/school budget and passed onto the taxpayers, I would give them an additional .25 cents in state aid. Essentially, this means that the local municipalities only need to cut .75 cents in order for local residents to receive a dollars worth of property tax reduction. I would pay for the program initially by ending the direct property tax relief payments currently being made to targeted individuals. Instead of trying to control property taxes with a cap, I will incentify their reduction by offering money.

So, those would be my four ideas that would have the largest impact on the state. I would make large dents in the property tax issue by helping towns to control costs and equalize funding as well as incentifying them to control their own costs. Additionally, I would incentify investment and job creation with the greatest incentives being placed on investment in NJ's hardest hit areas, the cities.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:15 PM
 
Location: pennsauken
402 posts, read 666,284 times
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What do you think of making each county a school district? Each county would have one superintendent. That would eliminate about 500 people making Over 100k a year. 21 counties each with one superintendent.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:59 PM
 
14,781 posts, read 38,764,617 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jersey08057 View Post
What do you think of making each county a school district? Each county would have one superintendent. That would eliminate about 500 people making Over 100k a year. 21 counties each with one superintendent.
I don't think it's an overall bad idea, but there are big questions about how much would it really save in education costs when all was said and done, especially versus simply expanding shared services. There's also the fact that the "home rule" education states are generally the best performing in the country. You would also cause massive issues in any forced mergers depending on how you drew the lines and what kids would be going where, etc. Basically, I don't see a way to make anyone happy by forcing it to happen.

If I had a number 5 to put above, this is what it would be and it was a toss up whether to go with property tax reduction incentives or merger incentives...

5. Establish a merger board and fund that would assist towns and schools with exploring the benefits of mergers. In many cases, the biggest hurdle to moving beyond the discussion phase of a merger is determining who will pay for the cost of planning and making it happen. Having access to the board will give towns the expertise and resources to fully vet and accomplish mergers. The fund will be used to pay for the costs of the merger, as often it is the short term costs that no one wants to bear that prevents them from happening.
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:20 PM
 
3,984 posts, read 6,356,507 times
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I think we have something like #5 already.

The problem with regionalization is it's good on paper but NJ is kind of strange having so many small towns & boroughs. When asked whether they pay too much they say "Damn right!" When asked if they want to regionalize schools with Town A or B they say "Heck no, we love our district the way it is!"
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:38 PM
 
Location: pennsauken
402 posts, read 666,284 times
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It's sad because I love this state. It's just that the resistance to change is so strong.
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Old 06-08-2012, 05:22 PM
 
Location: New Jersey/Florida
5,657 posts, read 11,268,605 times
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Does NJ GOAT need a campaign manager.
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Old 06-08-2012, 07:06 PM
 
1,954 posts, read 3,480,674 times
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Would cost of living differences between north, central, and south be an issue in standardizing teacher pay across the state?
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Old 06-08-2012, 07:57 PM
 
855 posts, read 623,860 times
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I think another one one the list is eliminate double dipping on all levels of public employees
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Old 06-08-2012, 08:58 PM
 
2,466 posts, read 2,281,036 times
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NJGoat- while I love your first point it will never pass. Here is why Newark, Milburn, Camden, Princeton. etc. You see that proposal helps Woodbridge, Toms River, Hamilton etc but both rich and poor districts will vote against it.
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:05 PM
 
1,929 posts, read 3,120,760 times
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Here is my rule and I am not sure who the numb nuts is that would oppose this other then the obvious double dippers.

If you have any state job you cant collect any state pension. In order to collect a state pension you may not be employed by the state(town,county, or any other nonsense) in any capacity at all.
Part two you may only collect one pension regardless of how many dumb jobs you have in the state. You take the best one and that is it.
Part three You must cap pensions at some reasonable like 75k to stop the silly abuses of people getting over 100k in pension benefits. Its just dumb not fair and not helping the people who are collecting 20k to 30k and happen to be the majority of pensioners.

Rule four you dont like it too bad. Get another job.

Now tell me who would be against this? Greedy Teachers? Greedy Public workers? No my friends it would be the politicians and big wigs who have raped the system for so many years and then make the everyday worker look like a scumbag for having a pension.
Not to mention my plan would save the taxpayers billions of dollars and would allot the money in a much more fair and equitable manner then the current system.
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