Atlantic County Mayors Wary Of More Cuts to State Aid

As Governor Corzine gave his State of the State address today, several Atlantic County Mayors were eager to hear how the Governor would address a $2.5 billion budget deficit and wondered if he would resort to the same drastic measures he implemented last year.

Egg Harbor Twp. Mayor Sonny McCullough, Galloway Twp. Mayor Tom Bassford and Hamilton Twp. Mayor Nelson Gaskill braced themselves for the expected announcement of more harmful cuts to State aid to municipalities, similar to the reductions made in 2008.

Corzine held all in suspense during his speech, but offered no substantive details or direction of his future budget plans that would help assuage the concerns held by many municipalities.

McCullough, Bassford and Gaskill have reason to worry after being blindsided by cuts to municipal aid in last years State budget. Corzine cut vital state aid to Egg Harbor Twp, Galloway Twp and Hamilton Twp. by well over a combined $1 million in 2008.

Those cuts were packaged by Corzine as part of a broader effort to balance a $33 billion budget, yet at the very same time, Corzine increased state spending by $2.7 billion in the 2008 budget.

McCullough, Bassford and Gaskill are calling for a cap on state spending and the restoration of aid to municipalities.

?Governor Corzine has spent the past four years relying on budget gimmicks and reckless borrowing to balance New Jersey?s books,? said Mayor McCullough. ?With a budget shortfall, he?ll likely continue to take money away from municipalities to pay for even more irresponsible state spending.?

For many towns those cuts to municipal aid result in a 3 to 4 cent increase in the tax rate to maintain the same level of services prior to the reductions. Mayor Bassford said it?s a convenient way to pass on a tax increase from the State to the local municipalities and needs to be addressed by the State Legislature.

?Governor Corzine needs to be held accountable and develop his own structural reform component to address the state?s fiscal crisis, instead of passing the buck,? said Bassford. ?Corzine could start by enacting a strong budget cap, which would be the first step in getting the state?s budget back on sound fiscal footing.?

Mayor Gaskill echoed these comments and says more is needed to solve the state?s economic problems.

?Balancing the 2009 budget on the backs of our municipalities is not going to solve New Jersey?s long-term fiscal crisis,? said Gaskill. ?We need pragmatic solutions to reign in state spending and ensure proper reforms are implemented.?

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