When the NJ legislature imposed a property tax cap in 2010, some municipalities complained they couldn't possibly live within the 2 percent annual growth restriction. Gov. Christie's response was that municipalities in the state needed to find ways to cut costs by sharing them. Jersey has an unusually large number of towns and cities (565) and school districts (more than 600), including many small government units that rack up big administrative costs with duplicative services. Now the Jersey senate, led by potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sweeney, has passed legislation that would tie municipal aid from the state to cost-cutting consolidations by local governments.
Sweeney says the tough legislation is meant to get the attention of local leaders who resist sharing services with neighboring municipalities. At least one big consolidation is already under way, between Princeton Borough and Princeton Township (bet you didn't know there was two of them), and it's projected to save the two towns about $2.26 million annually growing to $3.5 million when the move is completed in three years. Government unions in the state oppose the consolidation movement and Sweeney's legislation, naturally, because it would cost government jobs. Sweeney acknowledges that but says, in an uncharacteristically frank admission for a politician, that eliminating some government jobs would actually be a good thing in the Garden State.