The Freak Show: NJ Politicians Grabbing All The Money They Can

New Jersey is home to the highest property taxes in the nation. We’ve all heard about the union bashing that’s been going on because of all the high salaries and benefits that our public employees and teachers get. And much of it is warranted since our politicians have given away the house (or should I say other people’s houses who can no longer afford to keep them) to unions in order to curry favor and win their votes.

There is also the fact that we have so many municipalities. We have 566, as a matter of fact, and we have even more school districts, at 616. And each one of them has administrators, superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals and so on, usually at salaries well in excess of $100,000, as well as health benefits you and I would kill to have.

It might surprise you to know (although in the crazy world of New Jersey it shouldn’t) that we actually have elected officials for towns with as few as 25 residents, and we pay superintendents to oversee school districts with as few as 50 students. And the duplication of responsibilities is outrageous. Some towns split themselves in two or more segments. For example, Mendham is split into Mendham Borough and Mendham Township. Each one has a separate elementary and middle school system, with separate superintendents making over $150,000 each. And then they are part of the West Morris Regional High School District, which has another superintendent making $192,000.

It’s a mess, this elaborate system of small towns all having their own little domains, with separate purchasing systems, employees, etc. Ever hear of buying in bulk? You can get things a lot cheaper. It doesn’t seem like a hard thing to do, for all these separate entities to get together and buy things at a cheaper price. But these people, even with their high salaries, can’t seem to do it.

One of things that prevent decisive action on things like this is the fact that it benefits many of the state’s politicians. The more government jobs there are, the more it gives them opportunities to make additional money. The guys down in Trenton, who have the so-called “part-time” job as members of the New Jersey Congress, at the part-time salary of $50,000 a year, plus benefits and another $110,000 to spend on staff, are often drawing other salaries from our tax dollars. About one third of the state senators and representatives have second jobs as teachers, municipal prosecutors, town attorneys, police officers, school administrators and college professors.

After a public outcry, they recently passed a ban on holding more than one elected position (such as being a mayor and being a state senator), although they exempted themselves, so it will only apply to new officials. But they didn’t include anything about holding multiple public jobs. It’s not a political thing, since both Democrats and Republicans are partaking in it.

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan earned $111,772 as a Union County undersheriff, on top of his $50,000 for being a legislator. He stated that not everyone is a millionaire like Governor Christie, and it would prevent those in less lucrative positions from serving in the legislature. Yes, I see the problem. $111,772 isn’t really lucrative enough.

Here’s one for those of you who live in Hudson County. Your illustrious Senator, Nicholas Sacco, has three public jobs. He is not only a state senator; he is also the mayor of North Bergen, and the assistant superintendent of schools. They must be fairly easy jobs, since he can obviously hold all three and still think he is fulfilling his duty to the public that is paying him so generously for each position. He made over $278,000 from your taxes last year.

And don’t forget that all these jobs have pensions, so we’ll be paying these jerks for years to come on each of the jobs they hold. They say that since they are elected, the people must be okay with what they do. But that fails to recognize that they have rigged the elections so that there is not much choice. It’s either them or a member of the other party who does the same thing. They’ve made it so hard for an independent person to run that it essentially limits our choice to either one party or the other.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who besides being in the state legislature is a municipal prosecutor for several towns and an adjunct professor at The College of New Jersey, said he didn’t think it was fair to single out people with other public jobs, since there are a number of legislators who work for large private companies that do a lot of business with the state. What? Because some of them are doing something ethically questionable, it’s okay for others to do it as well?

Besides the obvious financial position they put the state in by drawing so many public salaries, the conflict of interest problems are over the top. Private companies shouldn’t be permitted to do business with the state when they have employees who are in essence making the rules for them. And how on Earth can anyone think it’s all right for someone to be a school administrator when they also are part of a body that can make laws and vote on issues that directly affect their other jobs?

This was in plain evidence a few years ago when New Jersey State Senator Wayne Bryant was also being paid as an administrator at UMDNJ. It turned out that he rarely went to his office at UMDNJ, and when he did, he usually spent his time reading the paper. But they felt it was beneficial to have him on the payroll because he had a vote on issues that affected the school.

Governor Christie has been getting a lot of complaints because people feel he’s going too far in trying to rein in government and cut back on public salaries and benefits. I’m going to complain about Governor Christie as well… he’s not going far enough.