Home : News Corzine urges N.J.’s local leaders to share more services

20 11 2009

Governor Corzine made his parting plea to a ballroom full of mayors and other local elected officials: Confront the redundancies inherent in the 566 different municipal governments.
The steep cost of that government now strangling New Jersey with record-high property taxes will only be lowered when leaders fully take on that challenge, Corzine said Thursday at the League of Municipalities Conference.
The steep cost of that government now strangling New Jersey with record-high property taxes will only be lowered when leaders fully take on that challenge, Corzine said Thursday at the League of Municipalities Conference.

The steep cost of that government now strangling New Jersey with record-high property taxes will only be lowered when leaders fully take on that challenge, Corzine said Thursday at the League of Municipalities Conference.

“If we are to ultimately control the cost of government . . . we are going to have to deal with the issue of consolidation and shared services,” said Corzine, who is serving out the final weeks of his tenure after losing to Republican Chris Christie earlier this month.

It wasn’t the first time Corzine, a former Wall Street executive, has urged municipal leaders to become more efficient and work more closely with their neighbors to cut costs.

Shared services and consolidation was a frequent response during the campaign on the property tax issue. And in 2008, Corzine’s administration used the annual municipal aid program in the state budget to punish smaller towns, while offering grants to those pursuing consolidation.

Many towns are now working together – joining police departments, court operations and other services to cut costs – and several workshops at this week’s conference, which ends Friday, were dedicated to finding more ways to join with others to find savings.

Corzine stressed that, from his view as the outgoing governor, it is the only strategy that will work.

“We need to address the proliferation and the fragmentation,” he said.

New Jersey’s best feature isn’t its many sewerage authorities and fire commissions, Corzine said in a speech that became emotional as it concluded.

“Our single greatest asset is our people,” he said.

Christie also addressed the conference, receiving loud applause when he was introduced several minutes before Corzine spoke.

The governor-elect – who last year said New Jersey’s many municipalities and school boards spend too much money and breed corruption – also preached a message of shared services on the campaign trail.

But he asked leaders at the luncheon on Thursday to join with him in trying to bring change for residents who he said are in fear of the state’s huge problems, which include an estimated $8 billion structural budget deficit and property tax bills that average $7,045 statewide and grow much higher in North Jersey.

“The people of the state of New Jersey will no longer stand for us asking what’s in it for me,” Christie said. “We have to start asking what’s in it for us.”

And while the governor-elect didn’t put forward the same direct plea that Corzine did on shared services and consolidation, he said he is willing to do whatever it takes to fix New Jersey’s problems, including the fiscal issues and high property taxes.

“Failure in this regard is not in my vocabulary,” he said.

“I am not here to wait one, two, four or eight years for change to come,” Christie said. “Change is going to come now and we welcome you to participate.”

“But one way or another, change is coming,” he said.

E-mail: reitmeyer@northjersey.com

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