Assemblyman Lou Greenwald’s recent proposal to allow local governments to levy their own sales and income taxes will actually increase the tax burden for the residents of New Jersey.
Such a plan would simply give local elected officials another revenue stream to tap without reducing the cost of local government. To make our state fiscally strong, we need to finally address the fact that we have 566 local governments that are duplicating the same services. Today, every business, non-profit, and hospital is merging, closing offices and actively seeking aggressive ways to eliminate redundancy and work more efficiently. Why isn’t local government? The need for municipal consolidation has been studied as a possible solution for more than 40 years. The Municipal Consolidation Act was passed in 1978 and stated “that it is in the public interest to encourage contiguous municipalities to consider consolidation as a means of insuring more rational control of growth and development, more efficient provision of local services and more effective public administration.” But the only consolidation that has been offered on the ballot is a two-town merger. That does not generate the savings needed to drastically reduce our over-reliance on property taxes. New Jersey needs to support a streamlined, efficient and a long-term structure that will deliver local services at a significantly reduced price. Five to ten towns connecting with one police department, one administrator and one of every mandated position will lower costs and promote stronger municipal government. We can create a business model that works. Every day, my non-partisan, grassroots organization, Courage To Connect NJ, receives emails from residents who say “This makes sense” and “This is what I have been saying for years.” The people of New Jersey are ready for connected communities that cost less to run, but maintain their individual identities. A man from Burlington County recently asked, “Why do I have to drive through three different towns to visit my daughter who lives less than two miles away? This is insane.” How can we continue to afford all of this duplication? I don’t think we can. Do you?