Continuing his commitment to strengthening New Jersey’s urban cities and distressed municipalities through oversight, guidance and accountability, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today committed himself to signing legislation proposed by his Administration that restores Transitional Aid funding and provides permanent, necessary accountability and oversight of the program. Under the Governor’s proposal, changes would be codified in statute to provide the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) with the resources and staff needed to properly oversee the Transitional Aid program.
“When I took office, I pledged to change the culture of Trenton and end the practice of unchecked waste of taxpayer dollars. Legislative Democrats’ efforts to eliminate oversight and accountability for Transitional Aid through the Department of Community Affairs was a misguided effort that would have returned us to the days of Trenton as a free-flowing spigot for taxpayer dollars where no one asked questions,” said Governor Christie. “I stand ready to work with the leadership in the Legislature on Transitional Aid funds, but only under the oversight of a properly resourced DCA. I will sign into law the bill I am proposing today that restores funding in the Transitional Aid program and that provides the resources for DCA to continue its vital work overseeing and enforcing accountability in the program, and serving as a partner with urban cities and distressed municipalities.”
Governor Christie is calling on the Legislature to codify oversight language in statute to ensure it is a permanent, foundational aspect of the Transitional Aid to Localities program, while also restoring funding in the program. Proper levels of oversight and accountability are critical to ensuring that Transitional Aid is indeed temporary as the State government works with recipient municipalities to implement needed reforms and efficiencies. The expenditure of state taxpayer dollars in the program must go hand in hand with proper accountability of those funds. By putting this oversight in statute, oversight and accountability of the aid program will be ongoing and no longer dependent on the whims and product of the annual budget debate and appropriations act.
For twenty-five years, the State’s distressed municipalities have received ever-increasing levels of state taxpayer support, above and beyond that provided by State municipal aid. These programs were provided with little to no State oversight, accountability or guidance. The general result was that distressed municipalities came to rely on these funds in their budgets as an annual appropriation and had no incentive to improve their fiscal management or regain their financial footing.
Upon taking office, Governor Christie has acted on a commitment to aggressively work as a partner with distressed municipalities and to implement responsible management practices, increase accountability and transition toward self-reliance and away from the need for additional state taxpayer funds.
The Christie Administration has aggressively overseen the Transitional Aid to Localities Program through efforts such as:
• Setting and enforcing conditions for the receipt of aid through Memorandums of Understanding;
• Implementing a meaningful, rigorous application process for aid awards where none existed before;
• Requiring regular oversight meetings with DCA and municipal officials to monitor the use of funds and efforts to control costs;
• Utilizing staff to consult with municipalities and assist with professional reviews of municipal operations;
• Advising and consulting with municipal cost-saving initiatives, including police and fire department restructuring to reduce overhead and ensure public safety programs are both efficient and effective;
• Requiring DCA approval for employee hiring;
• Denying non-essential hires, raises, contracts and expenditures and unnecessary travel.
In order for the Transitional Aid program to remain successful, the State must continue to maintain oversight of these transitional funds, and work cooperatively with municipalities in order to guide municipalities in their transition off of state taxpayer subsidies.