New Jersey lawmakers yesterday were set to vote on fiscal measures during the final day of the legislative session, including a bill that would increase mayoral powers in Camden, which has been under state control since 2002.
The Senate planned to take up S. 3166, which would allow Camden’s mayor to raise property taxes by no more than 3% each year, veto contracts, and abolish city positions. The General Assembly yesterday passed the initiative in a 45 to 31 vote.
The bill would place the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs as Camden’s chief operating officer. Mayor Dana Redd, a former state senator and lifelong Camden resident, took office on Jan. 1.
“It’s time that the city of Camden be once again allowed to choose its own destiny,” Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson, sponsor of the bill, said in a prepared statement. “At a time when we’re trying to rebuild our statewide economy across the board, we need to empower Camden city officials to make the sort of choices we have to make at the state level to ensure real economic recovery.”
Along with the Camden bill, the Senate was expected to vote on a measure, S. 3158, that would require the state’s Treasury Department to include pension and other post-retirement benefit liabilities in annual debt reports. New Jersey’s unfunded pension costs and OPEB liabilities total $23 billion and $55.9 billion, respectively.
In addition, senators were set to vote on an initiative, S. 3116, to allow the Capital City Redevelopment Corp. to issue bonds and notes while reducing the number of board member seats appointed by the governor by two. The measure would also shift control of the CCRC’s funds to the corporation and from the Treasury Department.
If passed by the Senate, S. 3166, S. 3158, and S. 3116 would move to Gov. Jon Corzine’s desk for his consideration. The governor is also reviewing A. 2139, a tax expenditure bill that would require all future governors to include cost analysis of tax breaks and exemptions in annual budget submissions. A Corzine spokesman did not respond to e-mails requesting whether the governor planned to sign A. 2139.
Corzine, a Democrat, will leave office on Jan. 19 when Gov.-elect Chris Christie, a Republican, is sworn in as the state’s 55th governor.
Christie yesterday announced his nomination of Jim Simpson as transportation commissioner. From 2005 through 2008, Simpson served as Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration in the George W. Bush administration. He is chairman and co-founder of Spartan Solutions Inc., an infrastructure management company and is chairman of Victory Worldwide Transportation Inc., an international moving and relocation company. The Senate Judiciary Committee will weigh in on Simpson’s appointment.
In addition, Christie selected former state DOT Commissioner James Weinstein as executive director of New Jersey Transit. Weinstein previously served as transportation commissioner under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman from 1998 to 2002. He then held the position of senior vice president of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Weinstein is the vice president of AECOM, an engineering and architectural design firm that works in the areas of transportation, facilities, environmental, and energy.
In other news, New Jersey’s Local Finance Board tomorrow is expected to allocate $121.5 million of total extraordinary special aid to five local governments, including $67 million to Camden. A joint budget committee yesterday approved boosting the total allocation by $44 million to help the municipalities maintain essential services.
Along with $67 million to Camden, the anticipated allocations include $27 million to Paterson, $14 million to Jersey City, $11.3 million to Union City, and $2.25 million to Bridgeton.
Any bill that failed to pass yesterday would need to be resubmitted in the new legislative session that begins today.