Sweeney pushes shared services bill
For years, State Senate President Steve Sweeney has been spearheading legislation to encourage municipalities to share services in areas where it would save taxpayer dollars. His bill has consistently garnered support in the Upper House, but has always stalled in the Assembly. Sweeney said he is hopeful that will change soon.
"I'm talking to the new (Assembly) speaker (Vinnie Prieto, D-Secaucus) on what we need to do to get it done to a point where it actually accomplishes something," said Sweeney (D-West Deptford). "The speaker has been very good on talking to me about some of his concerns so hopefully we can craft something sooner rather than later because this has been a priority of mine since I've been in the legislature."
Under Sweeney's measure, a special panel known as the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission would determine if two towns could save money by sharing services. If it is proven that they could, municipalities could adopt the policy by ordinance or resolution or they could put the idea to the voters.
If towns or voters refuse to share services or do not make a good faith attempt to implement the recommendation within the required time frames, they would lose state aid equal to the estimated cost savings.
"Why do you look at the state to give you money to help with your tax rate when you could do something locally to help with it and you choose not to," Sweeney asked.
The State League of Municipalities and many mayors oppose Sweeney's carrot-and-stick approach, but Sweeney said often times, towns won't take the carrot so it's time to break out the sticks.