Atlantic County Republican State Sen. James ?Sonny? McCullough said today that the lame duck session of the Legislature after the November election ?is absolutely the worst possible time? to consider a new school aid funding formula.
?The Governor?s suggestion that the Legislature act on a program of this magnitude in a November session should be rejected immediately,? McCullough said. ?Everyone knows that lame duck sessions are chaotic events, with bills passed in the middle of the night with virtually no debate or adequate study. Taking up a $10 billion spending program which has a significant impact on the property tax bills of everyone in this state in such an atmosphere would be a grievous error. ?
?Why couldn?t the Legislature have scheduled sessions in September and October to take up the issue?? McCullough asked. ?There?s absolutely nothing standing in the way of sessions in the Fall to meet our responsibilities.?
McCullough said there is no doubt on anyone?s part that the current school aid formula is badly flawed and unfair and is in desperate need of an overhaul.
?To do the job and do it correctly, however, requires careful deliberation, in-depth study, and input from all affected parties — conditions which are absent in a lame duck session,? the Senator said.
McCullough said that any revision in the aid formula ?must take into account the unreasonable and unfair burden on the growth zone communities of Egg Harbor, Galloway and Hamilton townships.?
?These school districts and municipal governments have had to deal with explosive growth as a result of the Pinelands Preservation Act and have done so without any significant relief,? he said. ?It is absolutely essential that a new formula include substantial assistance for these communities.?
McCullough said he feared that attempting to re-craft an aid program in the crush of last minute actions common to lame duck sessions ?will ignore the plight of the growth zone communities and could very well lead to a formula so error-filled, so unfair, that it will be necessary to revisit the entire issue in 2008.?
He pointed out that the Legislature held a special three-month session over last summer and failed to agree on a new aid formula.
?In light of that history, it is illogical to assume that a new aid package can be developed, refined and enacted in a few sessions in November,? he said. ?Wait and get it right.?