Override of police and fire aid fails

TRENTON – A failed attempt, 24-12, to restore police and fire funding in the state budget dredged up lawmakers’ stories about the growing crime rates in New Jersey.

State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), of Newark, said just this morning she read about two more killings in Newark, one of 115 municipalities that would benefit from the funding.

“I urge everyone to critically think about this,” she pleaded.

Her Democratic colleague, state Sen. John Girgenti (D-35), of Hawthorne, said the state experienced an increase in homicides last year, up 13 percent in 2010 from 2009.

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-31), of Jersey City, said, “We in urban areas have been fighting this war on gun violence for a very long time.”

In Jersey City, she sees “children being gunned down and shot…senior citizens afraid to leave their homes…some of us are afraid to walk the streets.”

“It is happening all over our state and our urban areas,” Cunningham said. “The only weapon that we have against this gun violence is our walking police officers.”

State Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23), of Washington Township, said the city could pay for more cops if they stopped handing out tax abatements that were reported by the Department of Community Affairs. “Stop doing that, and maybe you’ll have sufficient funding for Jersey City.”

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5), of Camden, was riled up by Doherty’s fiscal argument about a personal issue. “How many people in this chamber have had a child shot within three or four blocks of their home?”

“We have luxury boxes at the Meadowlands Stadium,” he said, along with some other examples of spending the chamber has approved in years past. “And yet in my town the most dangerous of any town in the state of New Jersey…half my cops got laid off…a third of my firefighters got laid off. We’ve had five multi-alarm fires in the last three months…They don’t have the luxury to say, ‘I want to move to Cherry Hill or Saddle River.’ ”

Republican state Sen. Robert Singer (R-30), of Lakewood, said he was shocked that his town wasn’t included on the list that the Democrats crafted. “I live in an urban-aid city.”

“I live in a UEZ city,” he said, the seventh largest in the state. “We’re not on this list…(in a town where a) policeman was brutally murdered (recently).”

“It was a complicated formula,” state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36), of Wood-Ridge, said, offering to share the methodology.

Defending the $50 million appropriation, state Sen. Brian Stack (D-33), of Union City, said, “I think this is one of the best common-sense approaches to public safety.”

His urban area in Hudson County where he is mayor has successfully curbed crime through state aid in the past. Former Republican Gov. Tom Kean granted the city “over a million dollars,” Stack said, during his tenure.

“He came in with a special grant in Union City,” the senator said. “He understood: when these areas are safe…it’s the entire state that’s safe at the end of the day.”

The override failed, 24-12, with state Sen. Diane Allen (R-7) continuing to not vote for any of the override measures. Procedurally, since the chamber is “under call,” Allen has been recorded as a ‘no’ vote for each item.

Republican state Sens. Joe Pennacchio (R-24), Sean Kean (R-11), and Andy Ciesla (R-10) are absent from the session today.


Override of police and fire aid fails