Reform Recommendations Issued to Address State’s Fiscal Challenges
Proposals by Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup Aim to Put New Jersey on the Path to Progress
Trenton – The blue ribbon panel created by the Legislature to develop reforms that address the state’s most challenging fiscal problems issued a series of far-reaching recommendations today that will help to avert crisis conditions, maintain fiscal stability, reduce the costs of government and allow the state to support vital needs and services.
Established under the direction of legislative leaders, the 25-member Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup devoted seven months of focused work that produced the recommended ways to address soaring pension and benefit costs, hold down property taxes, make school districts and government more efficient, assess the equity of the tax structure, and ameliorate the negative impact of the federal tax law, among other needs.
“New Jersey faces a series of fiscal and economic challenges that threaten to undermine our ability to address the needs of our residents and invest in the programs and services that will move the state forward,” said Senator Sweeney, (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “It’s no secret that New Jersey continues to struggle with inefficiencies at all levels of government that result in higher costs and reduced services. We confront an unsustainable legacy pension and benefit costs that will make it all but impossible to meet our priorities, including full funding of public schools, expanding preschool and making New Jersey more affordable for families, senior citizens, and businesses. We have to be willing to take the actions needed to maintain fiscal stability and promote economic responsibility.”
Working under the bipartisan leadership of Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, Senator Steve Oroho and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, the group of economists, tax experts and fiscal experts from academia and the public and private sectors, the workgroup’s suggestions cover five categories:
1) Pension & Benefit Reform
2) Education Reform at the Administrative Level
3) County & Municipal Government Reform and Shared Services
4) State and Local Government Tax Structure
5) Leveraging Assets to Stabilize the Pension System
“We assembled a group of prominent and accomplished experts who devoted their hard work in developing a series of serious recommendations that are intended to address the state’s fiscal challenges,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen). “The report provides a blueprint of ideas that are intended to be thought provoking. They will be the subject of further discussions, debate and consideration. We will work to determine which ones will best serve the needs of the state and which ones we will follow through on. I thank the members for their important contributions.”
The workgroup reassessed the fairness, adequacy, efficiency and affordability of the state’s current revenue structure across all levels of government and reexamined the delivery of government services to develop its findings and recommendations.
“The problems that New Jersey faces today with unfunded pension liabilities and growing healthcare costs for public employees are no surprise to anyone, with our state’s challenges clearly highlighted by both the Benefits Review Task Force that Phil Murphy chaired in 2005 and by the Byrne/Healey Commission in 2015,” said Sen. Steven Oroho (R-24). “Unfortunately, the modest reforms enacted to date have only slowed the pace of our downward spiral, and we soon face the additional burden of a massive Cadillac tax under the ACA if we do nothing to reduce health benefit costs further. It’s our responsibility to both taxpayers and public employees to address this situation honestly and with political fortitude. It’s clear that bold reforms are necessary to fix the structural deficiencies that threaten the financial future of every New Jerseyan.”
The report’s recommendations, in their entirety, represent the consensus of the assembled experts.
“These recommendations create a path to make New Jersey fiscally responsible,” said former Senator Raymond Lesniak, who served on the panel. “The fiscal crisis facing the state requires a full court press to move forward on the recommendations which will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government.”
The issuance of the report represents the first step in what will be an ongoing process in the months ahead that will expand to involve stakeholders and the general public in an informed debate about how to put New Jersey on the path to progress, the panel’s leaders said.