The Nightmare on State Street-Budget 2009

Accepting the Oscar for his leading role in the budget adaptation of "There Will Be Blood" is Governor Jon Corzine. This was a budget speech that reached out and stabbed nearly every constituency and hacked at countless services that the public holds dear. As intended, the Governor's speech was grim, sobering and gory. It was also dead wrong.

Slashing thousands of jobs of middle class workers, who had nothing to do with getting the state in this fiscal fix, is grossly unfair. More to the point, it doesn't save money, it doesn't attack patronage and it ultimately hurts all families in New Jersey. My local union, representing thousands of public workers, vehemently opposes these cuts and we intend to vigorously fight against them.

We've seen this movie before starring Governors past. As horror films go, each sequel gets bloodier. This year's version, seemingly written with a chainsaw, proposes to eliminate between 4,000 and 5,000 hard-working middle class workers while failing to present any real solution to state's ongoing fiscal problems. These cuts will be devastating to the critical services that our members provide to the public and which the public values.

To make matters worse, the proposed job cuts follow on the heels of a severe two-year hiring freeze which has left many essential programs at bare bones levels already. The Governor's proposal, which eliminates thousands of important jobs without realistic backfilling, will dramatically cut services across all departments and will degrade the ability of the workers who remain to perform their jobs well.

New Jersey's 'hidden government' is where the cutting should start. Currently, the state has 8,000 employees on the TES (temporary employee services) list performing the work of regular state workers and costing more than $100 million dollars. Additionally, thousands of political appointees remain on the payroll and private consultants and subcontractors continue to perform state work at a much higher cost to the public. These "hidden" workers are exempted from the published 'head count' which has allowed Governors to boast of 'reducing the state workforce' by eliminating state worker jobs while allowing private consultants and temporary employees performing that same work under the radar.

It is true that many politicians have spent decades ignoring fiscal realities and have borrowed like shopaholics with somebody else's credit cards. Public workers want to be a part of a real solution to the state's fiscal problems and have already suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions in the last year alone. It is also true that the state needs a 'holistic' approach (as the Governor often says) to address our budget weaknesses and our staggering debt. However, are massive job cuts really a 'holistic' solution when those cuts 'save' $134 million dollars in this year's budget but 'cost' $300 million dollars in increased pension costs? And realistically, does eliminating 4,000 decent jobs stimulate New Jersey's economy? No, and no.

Taking a chainsaw to the state's budget, in the hopes of keeping it alive long term, will simply not work. Attacking working families and the middle class, yet again, is not acceptable and not the right answer. The screaming has just begun.

Just a few of the services which could face the knife

Finding jobs for returning veterans
Screening newborns for genetic and biochemical diseases
Weekend hours at Motor Vehicles
Providing temporary disability for citizens who are hurt and cannot work
Enforcing child labor laws
Protecting our air and water
Public parks
Ensuring the safety of our schools
Inspecting and licensing long-term care facilities and nursing homes
Protecting the safety of our food supply
Protecting farmland from development and preserving it for future agricultural use
Distributing surplus federal foods to soup kitchens and pantries that serve the needy
Protecting NJ's children from abuse and neglect
Administering the senior prescription drug assistance programs
Attracting new jobs to our state
Conserving precious soil and water resources
And many, many more

The Nightmare on State Street-Budget 2009