User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: More Government at its Finest

"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Government at its Finest

When I woke up this morning, it looked like winter wonderland outside.  Snow drifted up everywhere.  The radio announcer said that 12 to 18 inches fell across the Central Jersey listening area.

So you would think the state would be closed.  Think again.  Our governor, in his infinite wisdom has come up with a new invention to avoid the wrath of Jersey 101.5 for closing the state after snowstorms.  It is called the 3 1/2 hour delay.  My wife was told to report after lunch which would be 1:00 pm so she could work to 4:30 pm.

At the moment, this doesn't effect me because I will be off from work for the remainder of this week and all next week.  However, my wife still has to go in. 

Why would the governor want to put thousands of cars on the road to bring workers in for the afternoon, only to send the same people back home over rush hour?  After all, very little work is going to get done, because by the time people get settled into their routine, it will be time to go home.  In any event, only a few people will show up anyway, most will probably opt to take the whole day off.

Well, the advantage to the governor is two-fold.  He hones his reputation as a hard-ass who will not give snow days to adults, when those in the private sector (like AAA tow truck drivers) have to work.  Never mind that most large offices are also closed, if they work at Wal-Mart, then the state should be open too.

Perhaps more importantly, is the implications from the payroll prospective.  If workers actually show up at 1:00 PM, they will get paid three and a half hours disaster leave and three and a half hours straight time.  However, if they take the whole day off, they are charged seven hours vacation time and don't get the disaster leave.  In other words, Christie is playing it slick and is trying to get employees to use their own time.  For me, if I was working this week, I would report at 1:00 PM just to beat the state out of the disaster leave.

Moving on to other things now.  Let's see if the municipal snow plow operators can do a better job this time than the did after the December snow storm.  I should tune into to 101.5 just to hear the jerks complain about a "union slowdown" because it is taking too long to get their streets plowed.  I would like to say that perhaps if their favorite governor kept the millionaire tax around, state aid to municipalities would not have been cut and the towns would have a full complement of snow plow operators.  Lay off public works employees and suffer the consequences of unplowed streets.

Speaking of aid cuts and the 2 percent property cap, yesterday the Camden city council  passed a 23 percent property tax hike, effective in May, according to today's Philadelphia Inquirer.  The paper says that the city did not say what the extra money will be used for, or if the new revenue will allow some of the 166 police officers that were laid off earlier this month to be recalled.  Because of the 2 percent property tax cap law, this tax increase has to be approved by the state before the city can begin collecting it.

City officials say the increase is a necessary state to meet the state's mandate that the city wean itself off state aid.

What is happening in Camden proves the point of what I have been saying since last spring when Christie said he wanted to get rid of the millionaire surtax and pay for the tax cut with cuts in municipal aid.  First, the largest cities in the state will take the biggest hits.  These cities were receiving the largest state aid grants and have many low-income residents.  Since urban residents tend to vote Democratic, the governor believes they are expendable and can be sacrificed to bring about lower taxes for his mostly suburban supporters.

Also, people expect and deserve a certain level of services from the government, including police and fire protection for America's second-most-dangerous city (Camden falls right behind East St. Louis, Illinois, which is another urban hellhole).  These services can be paid for through state grants (supported by progressive taxation like the millionaire surtax), or by increasing the property tax burden on city residents, who can ill afford to carry it.  (Hence the proposed 23%  municipal purpose tax increase).  Either way, the piper must be paid.  Shams like the 2% tax cap aren't going to work in the long run, because the state will be forced to grant exemptions, just like is going to happen in Camden.)

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