For decades pollsters have documented a decline in the public’s trust of the federal government and in recent years there’s been some slippage for state and local governments that historically fared much better than Washington.
What erodes voters’ confidence is the suspicion their elected leaders are all too often acting in their self-interest and not theirs. Alarm bells start to go often when something that a president or governor says doesn’t ring true. The wider the gap between what a politician says and reality, the deeper the cynicism becomes.
It can be subtle as in the case of Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget address in which he crowed about his 2024 spending plan as if it was going to cure cancer and transform life on the planet as we know it. “It is a budget designed with a singular purpose – to continue building the Next New Jersey. A New Jersey where every family can afford to make their American Dream come true,” he declared.
Ever the salesman, Murphy’s rhetorical riff spiraled ever higher.
“A New Jersey where every child can see their opportunity in our common future. A New Jersey where our seniors can afford to retire and live with dignity. A New Jersey that leads the nation in responsible, commonsense, and far-reaching solutions to the economic, social, and environmental challenges we currently face and is prepared to take on those not yet identified.”
He proclaimed that his budget would “provide an additional $830 million in direct aid to our K-12 public school classrooms, for a total of almost $11 billion. Making this investment will mean that in our six years of working together we will have increased overall K-12 support to our schools by more than $2.6 billion. That’s a more than 30 percent increase.”
But what he failed to disclose was that the flood of state aid coming out of Trenton would not lift all boats despite his flowery rhetoric. There would be winners AND losers that would likely be faced with layoffs and program cuts because of their zip code.
Two days after Murphy’s budget address, when the details on the actual state school aid numbers were released, the truth was that there would be “big increases for some districts and big cuts for others.” All totaled, 157 local school districts had their state aid cut, NJ Spotlight reported.
For Jersey City that meant a $50 million hit. Seaside Heights Borough saw a 32.7 percent decline. Riverton in Burlington County got whacked 42.5 percent while Wildwood City in Cape May County is looking at a hefty 52.8 percent drop off.
Meanwhile, more than 400 districts will see “increases ranging from a few thousand dollars in small communities like Bay Head and Byram to $114 million in Newark and $46 million in Elizabeth,” according to NJ Spotlight.
“It’s extremely concerning that more than half the school districts we represent are losing state aid this year under Governor Murphy’s budget proposal, even as overall spending on education is set to increase by nearly $1 billion,” Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho, (R-Sussex), told 101.5 FM.
“It is almost like the bean counters in Trenton are throwing darts at a map of New Jersey to figure out which districts get more versus who gets cut,” Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, old the radio station. “We need a better way to distribute this money, dare I say, in a more equitable way.”
“Under Governor Murphy’s proposal, total funding to schools in District 10 would decline by nearly 20 percent,” said Sen. Jim Holzapfel, R-Ocean, said in a statement. “That’s unconscionable when we are not only facing a school staffing shortage but trying to give our students some sense of normalcy coming out of Murphy’s masking and lockdown orders.”
“The problem is Murphy’s funding formula, it’s a slap in the face to every resident in Ocean County,” added Assemblymen Greg McGuckin, R-Ocean, “How can a town with a median income of $85,000 lose $14 million while a town like Edison, with a median income of $111,000, receive a $26 million increase? Gov. Murphy is building a $10 billion budget surplus and putting $1 billion into schools in other parts of the state. There’s absolutely no reason why he can’t properly fund schools in Ocean County.”
In a response to an InsiderNJ query, Christie Peace, Gov. Murphy’s deputy press secretary said the state aid appropriations were linked to enrollment levels.
“The FY24 budget proposal includes historic levels of aid for K-12 schools to help provide the highest quality of education to New Jersey students,” Peace wrote. “State aid is determined by the school funding formula enacted in 2018 (P.L. 2018, c. 67), which is designed to meet the needs of growing districts. Per the School Funding Reform Act, a variety of factors are considered when calculating the necessary State aid per district, with changes in enrollment serving as one of the considerations for funding increases or decreases.”
In the same budget that dozens of local school districts saw their state aid cut, Governor Murphy’s spending plan provided a $5 million windfall for some of the world’s largest corporations that post $100 million in annual profits when he called for ending the state’s Corporate Business Tax Surcharge (CBT), according to New Jersey Policy Perspectives, a non-partisan think tank.
New Jersey’s forgoing of the estimated $600 million in CBT revenue comes as the state’s local school districts are struggling with runaway inflation and a huge spike in health insurance costs to cover their workforces.
During a Feb. 22 NJPP virtual press conference Shelia Reynerston, a senior policy analyst with NJPP, told reporters that only two percent of all businesses in New Jersey were paying the Corporate Business Tax Surcharge and that sunsetting it would come as the very same corporations continue to enjoy the Trump era tax cuts as well as the lowest business tax rates since 1946.
“We are talking about Amazon, Verizon, Prudential — Wells Fargo,” Reynerston said. “By targeting these mega-corporations that make millions, if not billions in profits every year the surcharge is a sustainable revenue stream paid only by those that can afford it.”
We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it’s behemoths like Amazon and Verizon that can afford to spread money around and win influence with Gov. Murphy’s National Governor Association as a platinum or gold partner.
As for all the kids from towns like Wildwood City, better luck next year.
Source : https://www.salon.com/2023/03/16/nj-governor-wants-to-cut-for-big-corporations–while-slashing-aid-to-157-school-districts_partner/