Tuesday, January 06, 2009

NJ Gov. Corzine Contemplates Budget Cuts

Are they really budget cuts or are they reductions in the increase in state spending from previous projections? That's the problem when some of these articles are published without any relevant context.

Gov. Jon Corzine (D), has stated that he'd like to see budget cuts in a number of areas.
Some of the areas identified for cuts by Governor Corzine:

The state’s contribution into the employees’ pension fund: $115.6 million
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission: $10 million
Management salaries: $15.7 million
Executive branch employee salaries: $6 million
New Jersey Stem Cell Research Institute: $13.7 million
Cancer research grants: $7 million
Homeland security grants: $1.4 million
Office of the Child Advocate: $1 million
Office of the Public Advocate: $2.6 million
State comptroller: $1.5 million
Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike feeder-road maintenance program: $4 million
Hunters and anglers fund: $1 million
Law enforcement training and equipment: $882,000
Governor’s Literacy Program: $700,000
Mosquito control: $257,000
Department of Transportation ride-sharing program: $240,000
One that should draw a huge red flag? He's looking to cut pension payments by nearly $116 million. That's on top of the already massively underfunded state pension system. Nice. In other words, Corzine is looking to make the pension timebomb in New Jersey even worse by calling for cuts there. Don't hold your breath to see that happen though; the unions would never allow that to happen. The unions also will not discuss givebacks or reductions to their gold plated benefits packages going forward either, despite the fact that the state cannot afford them.

Another program to watch? The state is looking to cut the Stem Cell Research Institute Funding by $13 million. Why is that a red flag when I've repeatedly counseled that the state shouldn't have been involved in it in the first place? Simple. It's very hard to eliminate programs once they've been placed on the budget. Corzine has tried to spend hundreds of millions in debt financing to make the stem cell research center work, but taxpayers voted that down. He's settled instead for spending state money on the program when the state simply doesn't have the money. Now, he's forced to take action. Again, watch proponents try to keep the funding where it is.

Had the state not funded the stem cell research institute in the first place, there would be tens of millions available for other more crucial programs or lower debt financing or other benefits that accrue to taxpayers by the state not spending money it doesn't have and/or taxpayers whose wallets are not even lighter than they already are.

I'm still not sure what the office of the public advocate is, and why it is needed when it handles many of the same functions as the Attorney General's office (particularly the Division of Consumer Affairs).

Meanwhile, one agency that isn't seeing its budget cut? Global Warming. Nice.

Instapundit links. Thanks. By the way, I'm a finalist in the 2008 Weblog Awards Best Small Blog category (as listed as A Blog For All). If you're so inclined, send your votes my way early and often (Chicago rules apply).

Also, keep in mind that Corzine's other great plans for the budget in New Jersey include telling municipalities to not fully fund their pension obligations either. For someone who is supposedly a financial wizard, he appears to be made of the Bernie Madoff mold.

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