Blame state’s current financial mess on elected officials in Trenton

Today it seems that many would like to place blame for New Jersey’s budget disaster on the shoulders of the municipalities, public employees, teachers and police officers.

This budget disaster has its roots under the Gold Dome on State Street in Trenton. It was not singularly caused by the municipalities or these other groups.

For the record, let me be straightforward: I am a former elected official. As an elected official, I did not participate in the state pension system nor did I take the major medical benefits. One of my daughters is a police officer and another is a teacher.

While I served our town on the Lakewood Township Committee, we reduced taxes or kept the tax rate stable for eight of the 12 years during my tenure. We did not create this crisis, it started in Trenton.

Every administration since Gov. James Florio’s confronted a deficit. Florio owned up to it and raised taxes to erase the deficit and he was ostracized and paid the price at the voting booth.

Since then, every administration, including the Senate and Assembly, got weak-kneed and kicked the can down the road.

Elected officials in Trenton, including the governor, shunned cutbacks or tax increases because they cared more about preserving their elected position instead of fixing the problem. Therefore the deficit swelled from $3 billion to $11 billion today.

During that time Trenton plundered both the unemployment insurance fund and the public pension fund. Businesses and public employees paid their fare share to these funds only to have Trenton under-fund them for many years. Trenton gambled funds on the stock market and lost.

Trenton also used the funds in a sleight-of-hand gimmick to balance the budget year after year.

Now that they have picked the Trenton money tree bare, they point the finger of blame at the municipalities and the unions and have kicked the can from State Street to Main Street.

Charles Cunliffe