The hitchhiker’s guide to the toolkit

 

In the beginning, the tax code was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

 

This state has – or maybe had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living in it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small signed pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small signed pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Thirty-three is the answer. The question is how many small pieces of paper have to be signed to make people happy, and reduce the correlation between tax bills and coronaries.

When Gov. Chris Christie was elected last year, he walked down Lowe’s municipal government aisle and grabbed a box made from a 2 percent cap on property taxes.

He filled it with a hammer (civil service reform), some nails (arbitration reform), a wrench (pension reform), and a screwdriver (education reform).

But the checkout line is long and the Democrats are running the register.

Christie presented the package of bills to the legislature on May 10, 2010, and with 41 days to go before the end of the legislative session, only six bills ready for voting.

The cap on property taxes takes effect in January.

Roughly a dozen bills are being been held up because the legislature is waiting on cost analyses, according to the Democrats.

Of the pack, only arbitration reform has been given the verbal go-ahead by legislative leadership for a vote, although the Senate has committed to a vote on civil service reforms as well.

Critics believe the tool kit is an attack on unions, and to a lesser extent an attack on the middle class.

But Christie said the measures will avoid worker layoffs, and many government officials – from both sides of the aisle – have rallied his call for reforms.

State Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) held a press conference yesterday to say that Christie forgot to include a tape measure in the kit: shared services.

But with only 41 days left and only two voting sessions for the legislature, Christie said Sweeney was distracting from the task at hand.

Over a dozen legislative committees met on Monday, but few tool kit bills were on the agendas.

Passing the tool kit will be no easy feat for the governor, popular as he is, especially since the Democrats re-established their majority on Election Day with several key wins.

But opposition will not be easy for the Democratic leadership either, considering Christie’s well-established alliance with Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, who controls a handful of Democratic votes.

Many of Christie’s reforms, like the salary cap on school superintendent pay, do not require legislation.

About 70 percent of the superintendents currently earn above the proposed salary caps, costing school districts a total of $9.8 million, according to the administration. The changes in regulations – scheduled to take effect on Feb. 7, 2011 – also introduce performance bonuses set by local districts.

Below is a list and continuing update on the 33 bill tool kit.

 

 

Municipal and County Tool Kit

 

1. Constitutional amendment to impose a 2.5% cap on increases in the property tax levy increases for municipal, school and county taxes, cap banking is allowed.

 

Senate bill: SCR104 (Kyrillos)

–5/20/2010 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee
–6/21/2010 Motion To Suspend Rule 24:2 (Kyrillos)
–6/21/2010 Motion To Table (21-16) (Gill)

 

Assembly bill: ACR131 (O’Scanlon/DiCicco)

–5/20/2010 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee
–6/21/2010 Motion Rel AHO (O’Scanlon) Out of Order
–6/21/2010 Motion To Appeal Chair (Webber) Lost
–6/21/2010 Motion Committee of the Whole (DiCicco)
–6/21/2010 Motion To Table (44-36-0) (Cryan)

 

2. Constitutional amendment to place a 2.5% cap on spending for State government operations (excluding state aid to municipalities and school districts and direct property tax relief); cap banking is allowed.

 

Senate bill: SCR103 (Oroho/Allen)

— 5/20/2010 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

 

Assembly bill: ACR130 (O’Scanlon/DiCicco)

–5/20/2010 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Budget Committee
–6/21/2010 Motion Rel ABU (O’Scanlon) Out of Order
–6/21/2010 Motion To Appeal Chair (Webber) Lost
–6/21/2010 Motion Committee of the Whole (DiCicco)
–6/21/2010 Motion To Table (44-36-0) (Cryan)

 

3. Reform in selection of arbitrators for union contracts.

 

4. Arbitrators are mandated to consider impact of union contracts on property taxes, no such requirement in current law.

 

5. Arbitrators are barred from making contract awards that exceed 2.5% cap, inclusive of all salary, benefit and other economic contract provisions.

 

6. Pension benefit reform – eliminate eligibility for State retirement systems for non- government groups and associations.

 

7. Pension benefit reform – cap sick leave and carry forward of vacation for current employees.

 

8. / 9. Shared services reform – when local units decide to share services current law requires buyout of union contracts, bumping and other civil service protections that destroy the efficiencies of the merger; this proposal eliminates certain civil services protections when services are shared. (Two bills required to amend different statutes).

 

Senate bill: S2024 (Kyrillos)

–6/3/2010 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee
8/23/2010 Transferred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

 

Assembly bill: A3212 (Casagrande)

-9/16/2010 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee
–9/30/2010 Withdrawn from Consideration

 

Senate bill: S2025 (Kyrillos)

–6/3/2010 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Education Committee

 

Assembly bill: A2961 (Handlin/Casagrande)

6/17/2010 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Education Committee

 

10. Allow furloughs by local government to save costs.

 

11. Allow counties and municipalities to opt out of civil service municipalities by ordinance or referendum initiated by 15% of the voters.

 

12. Public employee discipline reform – reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

 

13. Police employee discipline reform – reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

 

14. Firefighters discipline reform – reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

 

15. Employee discipline reform – revise appeal process of employee disciplinary hearings to reclassify many offenses as minor.

 

16. Revise layoff rules to allow less senior, but more essential employees to avoid bumping.

 

Senate bill: S2011 (Oroho)

6/3/2010 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee

 

Assembly bill: A2956 (Chiusano/McHose)

–6/17/2010 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee

 

17. Give Civil Service Commissioner more day-to-day control as when the Department of Personnel was a freestanding department.

 

18. Increase testing and appeal fees for civil service promotional exams.

 

19. Allow Civil Service Commissioner to make seasonal appointment for 9 months.

 

20. Allow municipalities to offset property tax refunds against State income tax refunds.

 

21. Expand parties that may bring challenges to Council on Local Mandates to include groups, like the League of Municipalities.

 

 

Educational Tool Kit

 

22. No school contract award in excess of 2.5% cap, inclusive of all salary, benefit and other economic contract provisions.

 

23. School districts could once again impose a “last best offer” contract under certain circumstances.

 

24. Executive county superintendents approval of all union and superintendent contracts.  No approval of contracts with: a. Salary/benefit increases exceeding the 2.5% cap; b. Pupil contact time per day as set by regulation; c. Minimum number of work as set by regulation; d. Prohibition on contracting out auxiliary/ancillary services.

 

25. Executive county superintendents would be required to implement sharing of school business functions across districts and with municipalities.

 

26. Pension reforms similar to those affecting municipalities.

 

 

Higher Education Tool Kit

 

27. Revise fact finder decision standards (when awarding a new employee contract) to account for decrease in state aid level, effect on tuition, and benefits already provided to employees.

 

28. Designate State colleges and universities as employer of record for collective bargaining.

 

Senate bill: S2027 (Kean)
–6/3/2010 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Education Committee

 

Assembly bill: A2962 (Munoz)

— 6/17/2010 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Labor Committee

 

29. Allow state colleges and universities to hire faculty members for a probationary period.

 

30. Remove classified employers from Civil Service status and include them within each institution’s personnel system.

 

31. Allow separate workers compensation program management for college and universities.

 

 

Election Reform

 

32. Require only single ballot to each household instead of multiple ballots to all voters residing in household.

 

33. Move school and fire elections to November.

The hitchhiker’s guide to the toolkit