The State of New Jersey has a lot of work to do balancing its budget. As far as I know New Jersey is not quite in the same league as California but it’s not far from it. Republican or Democrat, it’s good for states to get their houses in financial order. I’m not sure about the way that NJ Governor Chris Christie is going about it, though:

In February, the Republican governor ordered the freeze of $475 million in school aid payments in 2010 by requiring districts to use their excess surplus instead of state aid. The cuts were made at the time to help plug a deficit in this year’s budget. Christie has had to cut more than $2 billion from this year’s budget to keep it balanced. {…}

A large part of this year’s cuts involved withholding money from schools that have budget surpluses. All but 17 of the state’s 581 districts have surplus money.

Lest anyone think this is a partisan swipe, consider that I celebrated the man’s victory (sort of) and besideswhich his predecessor had a rather similar plan (withholding 75% rather than 100% of surplus funds).

I mean, on the one hand this sort of thing makes so much sense that it’s bleeding obvious. On the other hand, doesn’t this kind of discourage responsible spending? I mean, these districts had money that they could have spent and chose not to. Is that the sort of thing that you want to punish?

It’s a natural tension, I suppose, between wanting to reallocate what isn’t being used and encouraging people to use everything they have. My father’s work in the Defense Department was full of those things (an accountant, of sorts, my father was particularly familiar with the phenomenon). I suppose the counterargument in this case is that these are drastic times that call for drastic measures. But I hear that in California, too, where they are withholding tax refunds (temporarily, they say). While it’s got to be tempting to hold on to money you have, you’re also making sure that people do not overestimate on their withholding in the future and thus the government will lose an interest-free loan.

In the interest of equal time, I did kinda sorta get a kick out of this:

Category: Newsroom

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One Response to Short Cuts

  1. Abel says:

    Christie rocks.

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