Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pumping your own gas follow-up

The whole state apparently agrees that they don't want self-serve: 14 out of 907 voters who contacted the Gov yesterday told him to skip the idea. AAA said they doubted it would save any money. I understand the political position, that Corzine had to look like he was trying anything to help out drivers, but I sure hope this test baloon is shot down.

We have the cheapest gas in the region. We don't pump it ourselves. If it ain't broke, don't fix it- expecially when "fixing" it won't make a difference cost-wise.

Well, that's a relief.

From the AP: "Former Gov. James E. McGreevey's tell-all book about life as the nation's first openly gay governor will explore his own struggles as a closeted homosexual but will not venture into anyone else's bedroom..."

Well, good. Personally, I hope it stays away from his bedroom, too. I'm interested to hear his take on his political struggles and scandals, not the details of his very private life.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Property Taxes- Hightstown speaks out

(Quick background on Hightstown: It's a small town, just over a square mile with 5,000 residents. Hightstown is in a regional school district with East Windsor Township; the voters voted down the school board budget this year and last year. The town councils of both municipalities must now review the school board budget and may make changes before submitting it to the state. Hightstown has the highest property taxes in Mercer County.)

Today is Q&A Friday over at Assemblyman Mike Panter's blog, and he focused on a question from Hightstown Borough Mayor Bob Patten. Well, it isn't a question so much as a plea:

Please initiate a special legislative session to act on much needed property tax reform through a constitutional convention. No need to wait! Do it now... before July. With too many defeated school budgets and unhappy property owners, “It’s the right thing to do!”

The Assemblyman supports a constitutional convention on property taxes, and has his name on ACR-108, a resolution calling for a special session, which he feels would be a faster resolution.

Also from Hightstown, Councilman Patrick Thompson posted a letter on about the school board budget. The councilman is very clear that although he sympathizes with the voters, he will not support any cuts:

Why else will I be respectfully disagreeing with the voters who came out last Tuesday? In addition to the regressive system of taxation that has created this problem, we have failed to adequately leverage our economies of scale as municipal governments, resulting in cumbersome duplications of bureaucracies across the state. The finger-pointing needs to end - we must do better for our tax-payers and must do better for our children. I make this statement cognizent of the fact that I - as a municipal office holder - am a part of this problem.

Finally, I will not supporting any cuts simply because our children's eduction is too important. While I intend to hold (school superintendant) Mr. Bolandi accountable as much as the next taxpayer, it is his job along with that of the school board to chart our course on this front. I like much of what I see so far, but we have a long way to go. We must allow this process to proceed on the established course. I am making the leap of faith to believe that the voters who came out last Tuesday were making a statement about taxes, due I believe to many of the reason I indicate above. Not because they disagree with the current course of our school district. Perhaps we should finally put our munipal tax increases up for public referendum and allow this dissatisfaction to be more holistically and appropriately directed.

The councilman is right. Most voters who voted against school budgets in Our Fair State aren't doing so because of a wish to change the education their and their neighbor's children recieve- it's a knee-jerk reaction to higher taxes. It's the same one Gov. Corzine is experiencing against his proposed budget, the most responsibile budget proposed in this state in at least a decade, probably more.

Two specific ideas were in the items I quoted from this small Central Jersey town's leaders: the mayor wants a convention- now, and the councilman wants us to "leverage our economies of scale as municipal governments"- the nice way of saying we have to rethink the high-holy home rule principle.

Two ideas whose times have come.

Assemblyman, I'm glad you're supportive of the convention. I hope you're supportive of incentives for cost-cutting regionalization as well as negative financial consequences for municipalities who refuse even to study or consider it. Sixty-five percent of residents of Our Fair State would rather see their state taxes raised than their property taxes: we must listen to them, and in a special session if need be, we must reform how our schools are funded from a regressive property tax to a progressive income tax. We have to solidly change the way funding is done now, across the board, including the Abbots.

The one thing we have learned is that we can't keep this up as it is.

Let's talk about pumping your own gas

Let's talk about the Gov's plan to introduce pump-your-own.

It's all over the papers this morning- Corzine wants a three-month pilot program for the Turnpike for pumping our own gas, to see if it will really save us 5-6 cents a gallon.

The governor has other ideas too, including possibly lowering the speed limit back to 55 in order for us to be more efficient in our gas usage, allowing hybrids to use HOV lanes, gas card incentives for carpoolers and NJ transit rider incentives. From the Times of Trenton:
Corzine last week created the post of director of energy savings to increase energy efficiency in state operations. In a symbolic move, he plans to trade the state-owned SUV he is chauffeured around in for a more fuel-efficient vehicle after working through security concerns with the state police, he said.
"We're serious about trying to hold down consumption. The nation's going to have to do it. New Jersey has to do it, and we are going to have to do this as individuals," he said.

Wow, personal responsibility and reduction of consumption. Wouldn't that be great? But I digress...

The arguments are pretty obvious on both sides. It's incredibly convenient to drive up to a service station in the rain and have the attendant do the work for you. It's incredibly inconvenient to drive up to a service station and wait fifteen minutes until the attendant can get to you, and then an extra five minutes if you pay by credit card for the attendant to process payment. It's unfair to seniors and disabled drivers if they have to pay more for full-serve. It's a job for a worker in Our Fair State, but he has to breathe in all those fumes for 8-12 hours a day.

Let's face it- the driver safety issue that was a big deal in 1949 when this law was enacted is long gone. Forty-eight states allow their drivers to pump their own gas. Since gas prices jumped 14 cents a gallon on the toll roads this morning, I bet we'll try anything.

But the real question is, will a change to our gas-pumping rules really change the price? Will it make a damn bit of difference?

My personal guess is- no, not really, or maybe in the beginning but not for long. Gas station owners set the price for their gas, and they get what they can for it. They have the confines of what they paid for the gas, overhead, and-big one here- competition. After a while prices will creep back to essentially the same level.

What do you think?

(Cross-posted at

New Jersey Treasure #5

There are so many good things about living here in the center of NJ, I could go on and on about them. And I've decided to do just that. Periodically I'm going to pick something that has recently made itself a pleasure in my life and tell you why it's a NJ Treasure, in hopes that you'll enjoy it too and have more pleasures in your life.

Today's installment features the NJ State Museum and Planetarium. Right now, the main museum is closed for renovation, but the Planetarium and the galleries on West State Street are open.

The Planetarium is our favorite. It's dirt cheap ($4 adult, $3 kid for sky shows- plus there's a download coupon for another buck off!), easy to get to, and a lot of fun. They run both sky shows and laser shows, which are a few bucks more. The first time we went was for a sky show. My oldest had just studied in school an old slave song called "Follow the Drinking Gourd," which sounded like a spiritual but was really a mnemonic device for runaway slaves to get north using the stars to guide them. The planetarium had a sky show on the song and we thought it would be educational to follow up the lesson with a visual, so we went for an educational experience we thought the kids might remember. Turned out, we had a lot of fun! It was great! For weeks afterward the kids were bugging Daddy to get out the telescope at night.

While the main museum is being renovated, the Auditorium galleries are open. Currently they have exhibits on Trenton and its history, and one about how native and European peoples clashed and combined in Our Fair State's early history.

The reason for the timing on this is that this weekend is Super Science Family Festival from 11 to 4 on both days. Mad Science will be doing demonstrations on Saturday, there will be a baby dinosaur display on Sunday, Hubble Vision on both days, and currently the West State Street galleries have on display Heavens Above: Photographs of the Universe from the Hubble Space Telescope.

All this and on weekends, free parking in the employee lots next door. How can you go wrong? Head out to the State Museum and experience one of New Jersey's Treasures.

Treasure #1
Treasure #2
Treasure #3
Treasure #4

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Carol Gay for Congress NJ 4th

Carol Gay has replaced Gary Schiavone as the Democrat running in NJ-04 and has started to campaign. She has a web site up, which is under construction as you can see.

UPDATE: Carol Gay now has a new, operational web site. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bits and pieces

During my ice-pick-in-the-face sinus infection of the last few days, I missed a lot. Am trying to wade through a couple hundred emails and stuff. Don'tcha hate being away from the computer for too long?

What's this about a Fox News guy becoming Press Secretary? Didn't see that comin'. Heh. They're having fun trotting out the fact that Snow has been critical of this administration in the past. I expect that'll change immediately.

I missed linking to last week's carnival. So here's the link: No-W-here. It's the very first time something I made for a banquet was pushed behind the flower arrangement. Nice job, Anonymous B. They still need carnival hosts for the second half of May and all of June- email the carnies to get a prime spot.

There's a comet out there! Well, parts of one anyway. Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 broke up eleven years ago (citing creative differences) but some of the larger pieces should be visible through medium-sized telescopes. I wonder if our telescope qualifies as medium-sized or not?

New Quinnipiac poll out today, showing the honeymoon's over for Corzine. 91% of us know the budget problems are serious, and 87% of us realize that the budget was inhereted by the gov, but we clearly don't like to pay taxes to take care of it, nor do we want to see services like schools cut because of it. Very important in this poll: 65% of us would support an increase in state taxes (v. property) to ballence a budget, but 60% of us think it's a bad idea to raise the state sales tax to do it. (I guess we're still holding out for money to fall from the sky.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Governor's Schools Saved!

Private donors have jumped in and raised $1.7 million of the $1.9 million needed to keep the Governor's Schools in action! Woo hoo!

One blissful hour

Didn't sleep well last night. I was up about every hour or so, so when that alarm went off I was in no mood to get up. But up I got, dressed I got, and hauled myself down to the local high school pool, miserable the entire time.

Then I got in the water, which was cold. As always.

It took about five minutes before I began to feel better. I was fine, for the first time in a couple days. I was great! The clean, clear, chlorine-filled water kept everything away and I was just fine. I swam my full regular routine, just like it was still winter. I stayed clear of problems, all the way home.

Maybe ten minutes after I got home, it started again. The itchy throat, the reflexive rubbing of the eyes, the runny nose. The source of my misery, what kept me up all night, was back. Damn friggin' allergies.

But for one blissful hour, I could breathe normally. There are no flowers or trees in the indoor pool.

Such is Life in the Center of NJ in April. It's filled with tree pollen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eating more and liking it less

An article appeared today in several newspaper food sections discussing a new Pew Research Center surveywhich finds that we're eating more but enjoying it less. 39% of us "greatly" enjoy food, down from 48% 17 years ago, whereas the reported enjoyment of food has decreased, especially among the overweight- 56% to 42%. According to the article:
And the reason we're eating more but enjoying it less? In a word: guilt, says Thomas Wadden, director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine.
"People are feeling guilty" about what they eat, says Wadden. "Two-thirds of women report they're dieting. One-third of men say they want to lose weight. They're forever checking their conscience before digging into that ice cream sundae."

While guilt may be a contributing factor, I beg to differ with the director. I think the main reason our enjoyment of food has dropped while our consumption has increased is that the majority of food we're eating is cheap and crappy.

I look at my kids' school lunch menu to see it. When I was a kid, we had hot turkey sandwiches (on white bread, yes I know,) with salad, hoagies, spaghetti- actual meals on our lunch menus at school. There was no "snack" menu available nor vending machines. Now, my school system offers chicken nuggets, pizza, bagels, and a snack line where the kids can buy all sorts of ice cream, soft drinks and cookies when they're done lunch. If they ate any of the lunch, anyway. Sorry folks, but we aren't building healthy brains and bodies out of soda and chips. But instead of addressing the problem, we just buy XL car seats and go on our merry way.

Or go out for dinner. There are so many more dining-out choices now than when I was a kid, but much of them aren't good- healthwise or tastewise. You can order a pasta dinner and you'll get, in that one serving, the amount I'd cook at home for a family of four. Or, enough french fries with your sandwich to contain a whole day's calorie requirements and two day's worth of fat. Only 39 cents to supersize it! They may taste good- thanks, IFF and Firmenich for that- but they're nutritionally bankrupt.
Ironically, given the decline in eating enjoyment, Americans report they're enjoying cooking more, with the biggest increase among men who cook.
In 1989, 25 percent of men told the Gallup poll that they enjoy cooking; in the Pew survey, that number had jumped to 32 percent. Among women, however, enjoyment of cooking has decreased from 39 percent in 1989 to 35 percent today.

Thanks, Food Network, for making cooking glamourous again. But with our busy schedules we probably cook less often then we ever have, and what we cook isn't the same. The nice thing is we can get presliced veggies, pre-trimmed meats, and the like; but what are we mostly cooking when we cook at home? Prepared foods, often frozen or boxed and reconstituted. No wonder our enjoyment has gone up- most of the work is already done. With the loss, however, we've lost control over what we and our kids put into their bodies. How much salt was in that frozen dinner, anyway?

Sometimes, I think the "healthy" or "lite" prepared foods are worse. Remember SnackWells, the low-fat cookies that had more sugar and just as many calories as regular cookies? The frozen yogurt that has just as much fat and sugar as ice cream? The lowered-fat microwave popcorn that takes twice as long, has twice as much trans-fat and costs five times as much as if you'd used an air popper and added a little real butter? Even things such as baked chips screw us up. These types of foods pretend they're healthier and therefore OK to eat, and we invariably eat too much.
We're also having problems with portion control, the survey revealed. Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they find themselves eating more than they should either often or sometimes, and 55 percent say they eat more junk food than they should.
The biggest reason Americans say they eat so much junk food is not because they like it (44 percent found that reason enough), or because it's cheap (24 percent), or even because it's heavily advertised (37 percent), but because it's convenient (73 percent).

It's convenient. We're eating ourselves into early graves for convenience.

Food is sacred. It's part of the rituals of most religions (or, the absence of it, in fasting) and it is life itself. What holiday, what event in our lives doesn't have a meal associated with it? Now that we have a superabundance of food, it has ceased to have some of that special meaning. From the article:
It's also a matter of having food available all the time, he adds. "People are eating continuously now. Food has become a recreational pastime. It's lost its ability to mark a special occasion."

And that's a damn shame. Food deserves our respect and our care. We should be eating mostly whole, fresh foods and instead we're cramming our mouths with cheap, crappy garbage that we readily admit we just aren't enjoying very much. Why??

Rant-related reading:
Fast-Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser (HIGHLY recommend- everyone should read)
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World, by Greg Crister
Food Politics, by Marion Nestle

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Go Vote!

School elections are today. Polls are open in your town right now until 9PM.

This directly affects your property taxes and your children's (or your neighbor's children's) education. Go Vote!

Monday, April 17, 2006

No challenger

NJ-4 is without an official Dem challenger to Rep. Chris Smith. Gary Schiavone apparently withdrew from the race late last week.

I emailed the contact address on his web page a while back asking to be on his email list, but I never even got the email that MrLiberal did.

So much for that.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Random bits

I'll be rather busy over the next couple of days and won't get much of a chance to blog, so here's a few bits-n-pieces:

Assemblyman Panter will have his Friday Q&A up later today. I still haven't sent the Assemblyman a question for this forum, but the folks who did last time had great questions and the Assemblyman did a good job responding. Go read up on what he has to say.

The NJ carnival will be at This Full House this weekend.

Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Weekend! You have until Monday to file your taxes.

Tomorrow will be the one-year blogiversary of The Center of NJ Life. Thank you, fans and friends, for visiting and reading about Life here in the Center of NJ.

Smoking Ban Begins Tonight

Starting tonight at midnight, smoking is banned from all indoor public spaces (except cigar bars and casino floors.) The last-ditch effort by a group of restauranteers and bar owners to stop the ban from taking effect failed yesterday. So, smoke 'em if ya got 'em- it's your last chance.

Do our local business owners a favor, and make a point of going out for dinner or drinks at a formerly-smoky place this week. Many business owners are worried that this will hurt their business, although statistics show that's not the case. They can read that too, but it's tough not to be worried about your business- so a little extra support is a nice thing to do.

Here in the Center of NJ, we're all about being nice.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cross Your Fingers!

According to an article in the Gloucester County Times, some Democrats are breaking ranks to criticize the budget and decry the sales tax hike. State Sen. Stephen Sweeney and Assemblyman Jon Burzichelli are both looking to scuttle key provisions of this budget:

Two Democrats confirmed lawmakers are looking to pare down Corzine's $1.8 billion payment into the state pension system, trim his expanded list of items covered by the sales tax and hope for better-than-expected income tax collections in order to avoid a hike.

Hope? Hope for better-than-expected tax collections? That's a budget strategy? I hate to tell you, folks, but "hope" just doesn't work as part of a logical, well-thought-out plan for anything. Especially when data just doesn't back it up; The Office of Legislative Services advised the Assembly Budget Committee last week that they expect New Jersey to take in $186 million less than Corzine estimated over the rest of this fiscal year and the next. So much for hoping for more money to show up in the mailbox- it may be even less.

It's time for serious solutions, not crossing our fingers.

Sweeney, who sits on the Senate Budget Committee, said Corzine has failed to demonstrate the need for increasing taxes without shaving any spending from the budget.

No spending was shaved? How about 1000 state jobs cut for $53 million shaved, $169 million cut from higher ed, $40 million cut from aid to municipalities, the Governor's schools cut for $1.9 million, etc. According to Newsday and others, the cuts in this budget add up to more than $2 billion. So much for no spending shaved.

Failed to demonstrate the need? This governor has held town meetings around the state, made speech after speech about the budget, and actively recruited suggestions and commentary from both lawmakers and citizens. He has gone out of his way to show the public the justifications for this budget. If you disagree with him, fine, say you disagree- but don't accuse him of not demonstrating the need for revenue.

Let's see, the revenue raisers add up to about $1.9 billion. What would the Assemblyman and Senator like to cut to make that up? How about Child Welfare reform and state-sponsored school districts- oh wait, that's mandated. We're already masively underfunding our public pension obligation, even with the increase it recieved over last year. Or would you rather cut medicare? Let's hear some plans for where you plan to get the money or what you want to cut, instead of just gripes.

The Wall Street folks- folks who aren't worried about their reelections, folks who set our bond rating and therefore determine how much interest we pay on our debt- are in favor of this budget. It's a reasonable plan with concrete figures and expectations.

See, gentlemen, figures and reasonable estimates are part of a budget plan. Hoping for more money to fall out of the sky is not a serious budget strategy.

(cross-posted at

How to increase traffic to your blog

I got 175 hits yesterday, way over my average of about 45/day. Why?

Well, Tuesday night I put up this post, about a fun timewaster of a site where you can vote on bands. When I put up the post it was late and I was tired, plus my friend Chris A. is a better writer than I am anyway, so I asked for and obtained his permission to reprint his email as a post. In the post/email he listed some of the funny pairings in the current bracket, as well as some of the contenders.

Including Clay Aiken.

I got 122 hits yesterday from a Clay Aiken fan site, which has my post listed prominently near the top.

Ravings on the budget? The deceptions in Hamilton? Central Jersey life and news? Nope. A cursory reference to an American Idol runner-up? That'll do it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Fleecing of Hamilton and NJ- The wetland report

Klockner Woods is 1/3 wetland, according to a long-awaited study of the Hamilton Twp. property*. However the study was not definitive on how many homes could be built on the remaining land, and that will be the subject of debate for some time, I'm sure.

But based on a concept plan submitted in 2004 by the land's owner, Doylestown developer Fieldstone Associates, the wetlands would cover all but 31 of the proposed homes along with a storm water basin.
Based on $100,000 per lot, the purchase price would come to $3.1 million, saving the township $1 million.
More homes also could be lost once state-required wetlands buffers are
actored in.
But township officials said yesterday the 31 acres not covered by wetlands could hold closer to 40 homes.
That number may be crucial in determining how much the township actually ends up paying for the property.
In her ruling ordering the township to begin paying interest, Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg left open the possibility the price could be reduced if the number of homes the land can hold is substantially lower than 41.
Since then, the township has paid $218,664 -- $27,333 per month -- in interest payments on the $4.1 million.
Feinberg also gave the township hope on that front when she hinted that she might allow the already-paid interest to be credited toward the purchase price of the land.
John Buonocore, a lawyer representing Fieldstone, said yesterday he had not seen the township's report and could not comment on it.
But during last fall's hearing, Buonocore argued that the $4.1 million was not based on the number of lots and so should not be reduced if the number is lower.
Both parties agreed to the price, Buonocore argued, and should be binding. Feinberg is expected to rule on the price once the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved the study.

Mayor Glen Gilmore immediatly struck the vindication bell:
"What is clear from this application is that our experts have determined that there is a significant amount of buildable land in Klockner Woods and it doesn't come close to being a swamp as some people claimed it was," Mayor Glen Gilmore said in a statement.
Gilmore blamed partisan politics for the eight-month delay in buying the land and said opponents of the deal misrepresented the amount of wetlands.

Opponents misrepresented the amount of wetland? Mayor, this study doesn't exactly paint you and the council as in the right. The number of housing lots available is most likely 75% of what you agreed to shell out other people's money for. Don't forget township planners knew years ago that 41 lots wasn't feasable. The land should be saved from development, you betcha, but at a reasonable and fair price- for instance, one that was studied in advance.

The study now has to go to the DEP for approval. The agency has said it does not have enough information to decide whether they will contribute the money for purchase through the Green Acres program. Does that mean that Hamilton will get stuck with most of the bill on this, with only Mercer County chipping in its portion?

*Hamilton Twp. sold the property to Fieldstone Developers in 2001 for $375,000 with the intent of development. Four years later, Hamilton agreed to buy it back for conservation for $4.1 million. Hamilton foots part of this bill but monies come mostly from the county and the state, through the DEP- hence the fleecing of all of us on this deal. The key posts of the Center of NJ Life continuing series:
The Fleecing of Hamilton and NJ, Deal postponed, 41 lots not feasable, Klockner Woods, Deceptions, Wheeling and dealing, Lawsuit, Paying interest, Money flow

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Looking for a waste of time?

This qualifies.

Essentially, somebody with too much time on his/her hands set up a bracket system with 512 musical artists... a battle of the bands in NCAA Tournament format, if you will. Site visitors vote in as many pairings as they want, and in a few weeks, one of the artists (The Beatles? Led Zeppelin? Tupac? Clay Aiken?) will have the honor of winning.

So what are the stakes? Nothing. No consequences or prizes whatsoever. But you may have the rewards of going from the ridiculous (Abba vs. Hole) to the Sublime (vs. Psychedelic Furs), from who-the-hell-is-that? (Dillinger Escape Plan vs. Muse) to I-can-really-only-pick-one-of-these-in-the-first-round? (The Doors vs. Cheap Trick). Mostly, you'll say "Wow, I haven't heard ____ in a while."

But occasionally, you'll feel like you helped stop an injustice. Will you let Tom Petty take Sade's crown? Will you let the Goo Goo Dolls beat Kenny Loggins?

Voting for one bracket is already over, but at this writing, Stone Temple Pilots vs. Al Green is too close to call. How will you sleep if this goes the wrong way?

(This post is written by Chris A. He doesn't even live in NJ, let alone in the Center of NJ, but he wrote a great email that worked as a post and he said I could use it. It's Tuesday, and you know how tough it is for me to come up with good content on Tuesdays.)

Congressional seat challenge

Rep. Chris Smith will be challenged in NJ-4 by Gary Shiavone, who I expect will get someone to put some content on his web site someday soon.

Every Congressional race in NJ has a challenger- BlueJersey has a list here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Carnival of NJ Bloggers 47

Roberto has this week's Carnival at Dynamobuzz. Have fun reading!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Assemblyman DeCroce and the New Math

In an AP article yesterday about the Governor's visit to Burlington County for a budget discussion, Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce is quoted as saying,

"We see the anger, we hear the anger every day since Gov. Corzine issued his budget and people realize it'll cost them tens of thousands of dollars in additional taxes every year."

Tens of thousands of dollars in additional taxes every year? Wow! I have to move! Tens of thousands of dollars additional every year due to this years budget??

Or maybe DeCroce should come up with something to back that up.

Let's see now: Average household annual income in 2004 (best numbers I could find) in NJ was $56,772, second highest in the country. Our state and local tax burden was 21.1% in 2005- which by the way ranks us 14th nationwide. So, 21.1% of $56772 is... ummm, carry the one... $11987.89. These are averages, folks, your own numbers will vary. In other words, state/local taxes would have to DOUBLE for the Assemblyman to have been close to right.

Now, let's look at the budget as proposed. No increase in the income tax, increases the sales tax by 1 percentage point, and a water tax of 4 cents on the thousand. You must be using a whole lot of water and buying a lot for that to add up to tens of thousands!! For the increase in sales tax to add up to a mere $5,000, you'd have to spend half a million dollars a year on taxable goods. Good luck with that on your average $56,772 family income.

Let's throw in the increases in cigarette tax-affects maybe 21% of residents- and liquor taxes- maybe 58% of us, best guess, really- but you'll still be crazy to say this adds up to tens of thousand dollars in extra taxes a year for a taxpaying family in Our Fair State. (If the increase on cigarette taxes or alcohol taxes means tens of thousand of dollars out of your pocket, you've got bigger problems than finances. But I digress.)

Even if property taxes increased substantially as a result of flat state aid, we wouldn't come close to ten thousand. Average property taxes in Our Fair State were $5867 last year, according to a January Star-Ledger article. To increase only $5000- not even ten thousand!- they'd have to increase 85%; to put that in perspective, property taxes went up 29% in the four years 2002-2006. There are a few other sales taxes, such as on tanning or limo service, but these aren't going to come close to $10k.

In his budget address, Gov. Corzine said:"Reluctantly, I am forced to seek net new tax revenues of about $1.4 billion." According to the US Census, in 2000, New Jersey had 8,698,879 people. That works out to $160.94 per person. To be "tens of thousands" for anyone, the full effect of tax increases would have to be felt by no more than 140,000 people. What are the odds on that?

Assemblyman DeCroce, these are serious times in Our Fair State for taxpayers. We face a serious crisis in Trenton with our finances. I understand that you're just trying to drum up support for your petition, your party and yourself, but this state doesn't need any more of these lowball 101.5-type tactics where you pull numbers out of your- I mean, out of thin air solely to get people angry so they'll rally around you. Back up what you say with real math, or don't say it.

(hat tip to jmelli for article link, and to Xpatriated Texan for the census paragraph. Cross-posted on

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Another good program, cut from the budget.

The Governor's Schools have been put on the chopping block for this year's budget. The Governor's office has been looking into private funds to save the 22-year-old program:

Spokesman Anthony Coley said there are no assurances that using private funds is allowed under current statutes, or that enough money could be raised in time to save the program.

But, he said, several individuals and organizations have stepped forward to say they could come up with enough money to keep the program afloat this year. In each of the past five years, the program has received $1.9 million in state funding.

"There are people who say they can do it," Coley said. "This is on the fast track. ... We hope to have a resolution and answer to this soon."

Coley refused to say who has offered to donate money.

Yesterday's announcement came the same day that The Star-Ledger reported Corzine had cut the program from his $30 billion spending plan now before the Legislature. Elimination of the program has sparked an outcry from alumni, prospective students and other supporters.

I went to the Governor's School in Political Issues and Future of New Jersey, twenty years ago. It was an amazing experience that I could never forget. Scholars had a specific focus class; mine was in education. At the time I was living in a town with what was universally regarded as one of the top (bottom?) two worst school board in the state, with constant infighting and a horribly overpaid and underuseful superintendentant, so I had a whole lot to discuss. I met people from all over the state, listened to lectures and had great debates. It was the most shaping experience of my life up to that point.

So why haven't I pointed you to the petition yet, or encouraged you to lobby for continuing the schools?

Because I haven't made up my mind yet.

It's a lot of money- nearly $2 million in each of the last 5 years. We're facing a huge budget crisis, with every special interest desperately clutching onto their funding. Plus, and this is in hindsight but may still be true, many of the kids there came from families that could afford specialized summer camps/schools for their kids, so why is the state picking up the tab for everyone?

So, I'm torn: between my memories of what a great experience it was and how important it is for the current batch of high schoolers to have that opportunity, and my cynicism as a taxpayer.

Maybe they'll get the private funding. That would be the very best thing. I'd even kick in a few bucks to a fund to kep it going- I bet a lot of alumni would. Maybe even the gov or the past govs, from their own money.

Interesting side note- I searched through the signatures on the petition, and only one alumnus from my year and school has signed. I wonder if many of them don't know about it, or if it's a similar quandry of position for them as it is for me. We would've argued for hours about it, of that I'm sure.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Death Penalty interview

The latest podcast over at is a short interview with Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person to be exonerated from death row due to DNA evidence. It's only about ten minutes; I listened to it yesterday in the car, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

A civilized society can't call itself a civilized society if it kills people. It makes 'us' no better than 'them.' The death penalty should be abolished.

If you're not convinced, go listen to the podcast. Well, go listen anyway.