LITTLE FALLS – Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-15), of Ewing, released a statement today urging embattled Trenton Mayor Tony Mack to sign off on state oversight in exchange for $22 million in state aid that Democrats have yet to restore.
Watson Coleman sent a letter to Mack asking him to “act quickly” in reaching an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to accept its offer to provide the city of Trenton with $22 million in Transitional Aid, according to a majority office release.
She stated, “Trenton is in dire need of these Transitional Aid funds in order to mitigate any necessary tax increases on the residents of Trenton, rehire police officers that are essential to help keep the city’s streets and residents safe and move forward in placing the city on better financial ground.”
There are two hurdles for the aid allotment to go through.
First, Trenton must accept state oversight of its hiring choices – which have been problematic for the Capital City administration. Mack overruled a DCA hiring advisory recently and the hired official later resigned.
The state is asking for a three-person hiring panel – a more stringent level of oversight than last year. The arrangement would seat a representative from the mayor’s office, the city council, and DCA on the panel to sign off on municipal hirings.
Watson Coleman told State Street Wire today she hasn’t heard back from the city on the arrangement since it was offered. “I can understand the mayor’s reluctance to some degree,” she said, but the city needs “some stability” right now and more capable professionals at the highest levels of its government.
Second, the Democrats in control of the Legislature need to restore the aid to the state budget. Gov. Chris Christie line-itemed the aid after oversight funding was slashed by the Democrats. He has since promised to restore the full $139 million only if the oversight funding was restored, but the Democratic lawmakers haven’t reacted.
The majority office of the Assembly did not give a timeline for restoration. “We remain pleased the governor has seen the error of his ways and moved to restore the money,” Jennifer Sciortino, deputy director of Communications for the Assembly Democrats, said.
“We’re still reviewing budget cuts and continue to have additional concerns, whether it be UEZs, (Urban Enterprise Zones), women’s health care and cuts to senior citizens, children and Legal Services. We expect everyone will work cooperatively on this in the coming weeks.”
Watson Coleman wrote in her letter to Mack: “Governor Christie’s irresponsible and misguided act of eliminating Trenton’s Capital City Aid state budget line item, which I helped secure for many years, has exacerbated this challenge enormously.
“While the offer of $22 million is not an adequate substitute for a dedicated Capital City fund that more accurately reflects the property tax burden that Trenton bears,” she wrote, “you should consider DCA’s offer for $22 million, including its conditions, as an opportunity to have more partners involved in identifying the professional talent your administration needs to build a stronger future for Trenton.”