As reported by nj.com, a Senate panel today approved a bill to give voters in New Jersey towns a stark option: either share the services the state has recommended for you and your neighbor, or lose state aid equivalent to what you would have saved.
It was an idea born out of Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s frustration that the state’s 566 municipalities were not doing enough to share services or merge with the aim of reducing property taxes. “We collect more than enough money to run government in the state. Probably too much,” said Sweeney. “But we have too much government.”
According to the bill, the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission would conduct a study as to whether towns should share services, consolidate agencies, or even merge. The commission would estimate how much the towns would save, then ask the State Treasurer to certify the figure. The town could either adopt the legislation, or put it up as referendum. If voters reject it, they’ll lose state aid equivalent to what the state estimated they would have saved.
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee approved the bill 3-2. The bill will be heard again in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee before it heads to the full Senate.
The bill also eliminates civil service protections for workers whose jobs are made redundant by sharing services, which drew opposition from public workers unions. “S2 is a veiled attempt to remove civil service regulations and tenure rights granted through collective bargaining,” said Rex Reid, political action director for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 1.
League of Municipalities Executive Director Bill Dressel said he’s happy Sweeney worked to address his organization’s concerns, but he still opposes the bill because it punishes towns that refuse to share services. “Voters should hold elected officials accountable, not the other way around,” he said.