Thursday, December 14, 2006

NJ Legislature to OK corruption

As part of the long overdue reforms for property taxes in our fair state, provisions suspending taxpayer funded pensions for elected officials convicted of corruption was part of the proposal. It now seems the legislature has stripped the provision.
A new bill to revise taxpayer-paid pension and health benefits would let elected officials convicted of corruption keep their pensions.

A provision that would have required such officials to forfeit public retirement benefits and receive mandatory jail time was stripped from a property-tax reform measure scheduled for a vote today.

Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, the bill sponsors, said there was support among legislators for cracking down on corrupt elected officials, but the question was whether all public workers convicted of corruption should face the same penalties.

YES, YES THEY SHOULD! You're going to tell me we should have to pay pensions for Sharpe James or Wayne Bryant when/if they're convicted? This is a large part of the reason we pay so much in taxes across the board. It's single bid contracts, it's selling public property for below market rates, it's no-show jobs at taxpayer funded institutions, etc.

One of the reasons we're stuck in this ridiculous mess is because nobody votes in Assembly elections. I don't mean to say nobody votes out the crooks, it's that nobody votes. In the last Assembly election without a Governor's race involved (2003), 40% of voters in my legislative district showed up. However, a closer look at the numbers shows many towns hovering around the 30% mark.

As a State only 34% of voters showed up. So not only do those serving in the legislature not have to worry about losing their pensions if they're corrupt, those who are protecting their corrupt legislative colleagues probably don't have to be worried about getting kicked out of office.

As voters, we do have a say in what goes on so long as we show up and hold elected officials accountable. If you're looking for a New Year's Resolution you can keep, promise to get informed and vote next November. It is the only chance we have to put an end to corruption if our officials refuse to hold themselves accountable.

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