Veteran state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) hears Gov. Chris Christie’s call for teacher salary freezes as an attempt by Christie to minimize deep impact cuts at the local level.
But the governor’s target is still the same, in Lesniak’s view: teachers.
“It’s obvious his effort is to point the finger at someone else other than the cuts that he made and he’s trying to get the teachers to be the focus and for people to be upset with them when their property taxes go up and not with him,” said Lesniak.
The Union County senator said his district took a heavy shelling from Christie’s budget: “across the board” in terms of school aid, municipal aid and Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) funds.
“This governor’s policies policy off-load everything from state onto muncipal and county government,” said Lesniak, who would favor taxing the wealthy and moderating govenrment cuts “so people can plan accordingly over the next years in an orderly fashion, rather than this shock and awe approach.”
The governor’s $28.3 billion budget proposal includes $821 million statewide in cuts to schools and $445 million in cuts to muncipal aid.
Originator of a doomed Corzine era public-private partnership concept for the state’s toll roads as a revenue generator, Lesniak acknowledged that Republican legislators he sees now appear shell-shocked with the impact of cuts in their respective suburban districts.
“It’s the first time they’ve experienced something like this, the way it’s being put upon them,” he said.
“What should happen at this point is Democrats and Republicans should get together and come up with an alternative budget proposal,” the senator said. “Republicans are going to have to make a decision as a body – instead of drastic cuts, an orderly scaling back of governmental programs. In terms of COAH (the Council on Affordable Housing) and other proposals, I’m on the same page with governor on many things -probably more than any other Democrat – I just disagree on this budget.”