Lance Urges Governor to Drop School Borrowing Plans
Senator Leonard Lance, Senate Republican Budget Officer, issued the following statement regarding a news report in today's Star-Ledger that the Governor's Office is pushing ahead with plans to borrow $2.5 billion without voter approval. The borrowing would be used to pay for school construction in the 31 special needs districts. The Governor made an ill-advised promise in a letter to the State Supreme Court in February that the $2.5 billion would be appropriated by the Legislature without voter approval by June 30.
"I am deeply disappointed that the Governor continues to push for new borrowing that would not be approved by voters. In January, Governor Corzine promised in his State of the State Address that he would obtain voter approval for all new borrowing not backed by a dedicated source of revenue. His refusal to put this school borrowing before the voters violates that pledge.
"The Governor's contention that this borrowing can be backed by a dedicated revenue source is inaccurate. Neither the Legislature nor the Governor of New Jersey can dedicate revenue to a specific purpose without winning voter approval to amend the Constitution. It is simply misleading to say or imply otherwise.
"It is our clear duty as lawmakers under the Constitution to put this borrowing before the voters. Given the recent history of the school construction program, it is also a moral imperative. The state has provided more than $8.6 billion of funding for school construction over the last six years. Investigations into how that money was spent indicate that vast sums were wasted because of incompetence, poor oversight and inexcusably lax ethics.
"Taxpayers should be given the right to decide at the polls whether they trust state officials to spend another $2.5 billion competently and efficiently.
"According to Moody's Investors service, our state has tax-supported debt of $30.2 billion, the third-highest of any state. Include other obligations incurred by our state and that figure climbs to $38 billion. At least four-fifths of current State debt has been issued without voter approval. This is the principal source of our current fiscal crisis.
"Senator Raymond Lesniak and I have sponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 39, which requires voter approval of all debt. This bipartisan measure would prevent once and for all borrowing for schools or any other purpose without voter approval.
"I urge Governor Corzine to end his effort to borrow billions more for the school construction without voter approval and instead endorse a moratorium on all types of borrowing until SCR 39 can be put before the voters."