Roberts: tie state aid to efficiency

In what could mean a financial deathblow to both Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposed state aid cuts and fiscally irresponsible cities like Trenton, Assembly Speaker and political powerhouse Joseph J. Roberts this week called for the further development of existing legislation that would tie state aid to governmental efficiency, rather than the size of a municipality, as proposed by Gov. Corzine.

“I share the governor’s dual goals of enacting a state budget that does not live beyond its means and encouraging a more rational local government structure through consolidation and shared services,” said Mr. Roberts, D-Camden. “However, performance, not population, must be the benchmark against which government is judged.”

Gov. Corzine has proposed a budget that cuts state aid across the board, but the state’s smaller municipalities with population below 10,000 persons are hit the hardest in the budget.

Mr. Roberts noted the existence of legislation – passed in 2007 – that called for the creation of municipal efficiency standards that could be used in the calculation of state aid numbers. Those formulas have not been created, but now Mr. Roberts says they could be used to determine where future state aid dollars are headed in the future.

Trenton’s finances are rumored to be in total disarray, driven by an administration that routinely fails to make budget cuts and continues to swell beyond the size of government necessary for a city that has seen its population decline from around 140,000 to roughly 84,000.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s administration is closer in size to that of the City of Newark than Hamilton Township, despite the fact the city is much closer in population to Hamilton, with less than one quarter of the area.

If state aid begins to be determined by efficiency calculations, Trenton’s government needs to begin making some very difficult decisions designed to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and do more with less.

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