Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican Assembly Budget Officer, said today that no New Jersey legislator can responsibly vote on a bill to replenish the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) if a constitutional amendment requiring the state to make specified annual payments to state employees pensions funds is on the ballot this November.
“No legislator from either party can cast a responsible vote on any TTF plan until we know if the disastrously flawed Democrat constitutional amendment will be on the ballot. If the Senate Democrats irresponsibly vote to place the amendment on the ballot they are voting to put any TTF decision off until after November – at least.
O’Scanlon said that the constitutional amendment proposed by the Democratic majority has three fatal flaws:
–No safety valve. With absolutely no flexibility we will have to devote $300 to $400 million additional dollars EVERY YEAR over the next 5 years to build a responsible surplus. An economic downturn – even a mild, no-growth recession – would force massive spending cuts and tax increases. This, and the payment mandates themselves, would crowd out spending on virtually anything else – including transportation.
–Quarterly Payments. If quarterly payments are obligated we could face economic calamity as outlined above – even were there to be a safety valve included.
–No reforms tied to amendment. Without including cost-saving reforms in a package that includes a reasonable amendment we set our state on course for massive tax increases and essential program cuts. For our state to remain solvent – without crushing taxpayers – we must make reasonable and fair spending cuts. If this doesn’t happen as part of a negotiated, simultaneously enacted package, it never will. I have proposed a bill package that is exactly such a plan.
“In short, if we pass the Dems amendment as is, we will have to postpone or cut all spending on everything – including transportation – until we have built up a multi-$ billion surplus,” O’Scanlon said. “That will take at least 3 to 5 years. Is that outrageous? Absolutely. Will it lead to major infrastructure failures and issues? It sure would. But it is exactly what Democrats will be voting for if they vote to place this dangerously and fatally flawed constitutional amendment on the ballot. Doing so will also mandate that every responsible legislator vote against any TTF plan until the amendment is defeated.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney, a major proponent of the constitutional amendment, apparently agrees with O’Scanlon. Sweeney prevented the Senate from voting on the amendment yesterday.
“There’s no way in the world I’m going to put a hole in the budget,” Sweeney said. “I would rather take the hollering from them (State employees) than totally screw the next administration, no matter who it is. You would destroy the budget of the state of New Jersey. You would be cutting education funding. Forget trying to pay for the pensions, you couldn’t pay for them.”
Sweeney also steered a bill to passage that will let laborers on strike collect unemployment insurance if passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor. The bill is a bailout of Verizon employees who were on strike for six weeks and of Taj Mahal, the Atlantic City casiono, employees who are entering their second month on strike over benefits.