Poor budget practices

When government officials refuse to release budget documents for political purposes they are not only screwing over their legislative colleagues.

They are screwing over the citizens.

Such practices are commonplace in Trenton, where the city administration under Mayor Douglas H. Palmer has made withholding the budget from City Council – sometimes to the point that the entire fiscal year has expired – into an artform.

This practice ties council members’ hands behind their collective backs.

It serves to preserve many positions and budget dollars within the mayor’s office and the city Department of Administration.  It means that budget areas that should be considered for cuts and layoffs fail to receive any scrutiny, generally resulting in higher potential tax rates for Trenton’s beleaguered property owners.

Of course, such activity is expected from a mayor who is almost universally despised.

That’s why the news Republican legislators plan on suing the Corzine administration over budget documents, citing similar activity on the part of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, is kind of disturbing.

Sure, people like Mayor Palmer may engage in such counterproductive, politically-charged maneuvering, but someone who took on the mantle of a political outsider and a reformer should abstain from such activities.

New Jersey’s budget is similar to Trenton’s, in that years of mismanagement have resulted in massive imbalances and shortfalls.  That means that the budget process should be open, public, and free from political maneuvering, unlike what Gov. Corzine is doing.

Of course, the Republican lawsuit is just as politically-charged as the governor’s decision to withhold budget documents, but at least one possible result of that activity could be greater budget scrutiny and a better budget for state taxpayers.

The only result of the practices adopted by Trenton’s misguided mayor and New Jersey’s governor is a bad deal for their constituents.


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