Entries in Debt (4)

Wednesday
Apr112018

On Facebook, two Freeholders contradict their vote for more debt.

Politicians sometimes forget that Facebook is public.  In all that fake bonhomie and throwing around of "likes" they forget.

And so it was a couple days ago, when a Newton councilman reflected on how the sale of a large commercial property in Newton would negatively impact residents in terms of property taxes.  Just days before, the Sussex County Freeholder Board had voted to fund the purchase of that property by the Sussex County Community College, through incurring more debt.

Curiously, two of the Freeholders who voted for that purchase and for more debt put up "likes" next to the Councilman's comments in opposition to what they had done.  Strange.

Now here is a question for voters:  Do you know who your elected freeholders are well enough to identify the names of the two?

Comments are open.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Sussex solar scandal, round two?

Watchdog's own "solar tracker" weighs in with thoughts on the new mistakes that have been made in the handling of Sussex County's solar nightmare.  This is important reading -- and pay close attention to what goes on at tonight's away-from-home Freeholder Board meeting in Vernon.

Where is the transparency?

Graham's group reminds me of when Obama first took over and told us how FOIA would be respected and transparency would be the rule.  Then the opposite happened.

What is Item E in Section 10, of the Consent Agenda? 

You can't understand what this item is about from reading the Resolution, let alone Item 10E.  And Exhibit A, providing context, was purposefully left off the Agenda.  Maybe this is a misdirection play, but solar should not be gamed.

Where is a solar investigation? 

The solar program is blowing out losses well beyond the original Eskilson/Re declaration of losses of $900,000 a year.  Last May, the Freeholders went into debt for $3.1 million more claiming it's because Sunlight hadn't received Federal 1603 money.

Why is the County guaranteeing Federal subsidies to private enterprises?

Yet this $3.1m was not listed in the Year 2015 public bailout summaries.  Freeholder Graham still won't tell us if solar gen build out construction met promised levels.  Freeholder Graham can't account for 3,000-4,000 SRECs/yr.

The solar program has gobbled up 2% of the operating budget and we're not building anything, won't own anything and the County taxpayer was never to receive any benefit from it.

And the biggest issue - how did Freeholder Graham get appointed to close-out the solar program?  Where was the Board vote?  What is the definition of closing out the program?  What committee was formed and just what powers does Graham have to closeout?  Who has been the prior county solar program manager for the past 2 years that Freeholder Graham now replaces/oversees/aides/fills-the-vacuum-for ( truly, what is this "role")?  This is a most unusual way for a Freeholder Board to work.

Should anything "solar" be on a consent agenda today?  Shouldn't there be a discussion for all solar contractual issues with a vote at a following meeting?  After all, any Addendum/Consent added to a Special Purpose Entity contractual arrangement may have wide ranging, unintended ramifications that are not necessarily seen by the public.  We saw this with the very first one, Addendum #1, that permitted protected construction funds to be raided for finance and legal payments which then caused mayhem years later.  Addendum #1 was passed in a similar way that avoided public awareness that insiders had lost control. 

Shouldn't any solar program change, no matter how minor, be publicly aired with weeks between the airing and a vote?

More than anything, this is about transparency and proper public reviews for a program that continues to bleed red ink in a climate of secrecy. 

Read the Resolution, Section 1 reads like a blank check - although Exhibit A is missing to provide context.  How does Section 1, combined with Freeholder Graham's appointment to close out solar, read to you? 

Tuesday
Oct042016

The Debt and Spend Republicans

There was a time, way back, when Republicans balanced the books.  Yeah, you could trust those Democrats to maybe go off on some flight of fancy, some childish attempt to throw money at a problem, but Republicans were the party of the adults, straight-laced and bottom-lined.  Those years when the Democrats were in charge and went off the rails -- spent too much, ran up debt -- those would be followed by lean years with the Republicans cutting spending and paying down debt.

That's not how it works anymore.  Like modern families, both political parties have learned that the shortest route to becoming "most favored parent" is to buy it for the kids and put the debt on the credit card.  Under no circumstances must the voters be taught lessons in budgeting and that spending money you don't have has consequences.

The debate over the funding of the Transportation Trust Fund has produced a curious dichotomy within the GOP.  On the one hand, you have a small group of starched-assed Republicans who simply refuse to continue the Santa Claus myth that a revenue source can remain constant for nearly three decades and magically fund all our transportation needs. 

They know that the last time the revenue collected from the gas tax covered the cost of the transportation program it was designed to fund was in 1990 -- 25 years ago.  Year after year we've fallen further and further behind in debt, to the point where last year the tax on gasoline and diesel brought in just $750 million.  That same year the cost to pay the debt was $1.1 billion.  It had to be paid before a single pothole was filled.  And paid it was -- with more debt. 

For 25 years we've been using roads and bridges that we couldn't afford to pay for and nobody seemed to notice, nobody seemed to care.  And anytime anyone dared to suggest paying off some of that debt you could hear the howls and cries of the children's chorus.  Why is it that we only hear calls for savings when there's talk of paying more?  Why doesn't anyone ever notice the debt until the credit card statement is due? 

For 25 years we have watched our incomes rise in an attempt to keep up with inflation, while those on Social Security received cost-of-living adjustments to combat inflation --  increases of 5.4% in 1990, 3.7% in 1991, 3% in 1992, 2.6% in 1993, 2.8% in 1994, 2.6% in 1995, 2.9% in 1996, 2.1% in 1997, 1.3% in 1998, 2.5% in 1999, 3.5% in 2000, 2.6% in 2001, 1.4% in 2002, 2.1% in 2003, 2.7% in 2004, 4.1% in 2005, 3.3% in 2006, 2.3% in 2007, 5.8% in 2008, zero in 2009, zero in 2010, 3.6% in 2011, 1.7% in 2012, 1.5% in 2013, 1.7% in 2014, and zero in 2015 -- but the price we paid to maintain our roads and bridges remained the same?  Didn't we ever wonder how?      

New Jersey is a fiscal mess because it has the nation's highest property taxes and runaway debt.  According to the Tax Foundation, New Jersey has the worst business climate in America -- 50 out of 50 states -- because, and let's quote them here:  "New Jersey is hampered by some of the highest property tax burdens in the country, is one of just two states to levy both an inheritance tax and an estate tax, and maintains some of the worst-structured individual income taxes in the country."

So the adults in the Republican Party, fashioned a plan to attack a big part of this sorry state of affairs.  Being in the minority, in both chambers of the Legislature, they had to work out a compromise with the Democrats.  But they had an ally in Governor Chris Christie, who wouldn't let anything less than comprehensive get past his veto pen.  Painstakingly, they worked out a very detailed plan that gets rid of the estate tax before the Governor leaves office, eliminates the tax on retirement income for most seniors, cuts the sales tax to boost commerce, provides a tax credit for working people with low-paying jobs, and provides a personal tax exemption for veterans.  The plan also addresses debt by raising the tax on gasoline and diesel to make up for all those 28 years it hasn't been adjusted for inflation. 

Even with the increase, all of the existing tax and the first 10 cents of the increase is needed just to start paying down the irresponsible debt New Jersey ran up while nobody wanted to pay attention.  Without a 23 cent increase, we cannot maintain and repair our roads and bridges, fund our transportation system, and start to pay down the debt.

You know that meetings have been held with Republicans around the state, asking for ideas on what to cut and how to cut to make transportation construction more efficient and less costly to taxpayers.  And we have to tell you, that the same people who demand savings have been less than forthcoming with specifics.  Everyone has a hashtag but nobody has specifics.  And how did it come to pass that Republicans are so scared shitless of numbers?  Lots of hooting and waving of hands until you ask somebody to put it down on paper, run the numbers.  They look at you as if you asked them to go to the moon.  If we are going to have savings, we are going to have to do better.

Can  you hear the howls?  They're coming from the debt and spend Republicans.  See the hashtags?  They read #NOGASTAX.  Now there is a responsible plan... isn't it?  With such a plan we can solve all New Jersey's debt issues.  Three short words squished together gets it done.  Brilliant!

Remember when Republicans busied themselves with spreadsheets instead of hashtags?  Remember those Republicans in the boring white shirt sleeves and ties, who had survived Patton's winter drive through France, who had lived through MacArthur's island-hopping, and who came out of it to remake the Republican Party and launch the new conservative movement?  Remember them?

Well, they are not with us anymore.  Oh, there are a few who keep to the path begun by them. But for too many, understanding spreadsheets and budgeting is hard work.  Reading requires attention.  So the new Republican is content to be a celebrity-chaser who has given up reading white papers for hashtags and tweets, who requires entertainment instead of facts, ice cream lies instead of hard honesty.  Piss on knowledge.  Lie to me, they say, lie to me and make me feel righteous in my anger.  It feels so good to play the victim.

When Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall at the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he was asked by a Mrs. Powel, "Well, Doctor, what have we got -- a Republic or a Monarchy?"  To which Dr. Franklin replied:  "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Citizenship was never meant to be easy.  It requires attention, interest, and vigilance.  Hashtags are no substitute for reading the legislation or for understanding the numbers.  Tweets should not replace books. 

As residents of America our distractions are many but as citizens of America our attention must be to the Republic.  We have self-governance in our hands if we merely make time for it.  But that will mean putting aside those with the too-simple-to-be-true answers that allow us to happily keep to our distractions. If we want our Republic back, we are going to have to grow a set of balls, learn to read the bills and understand the balance sheets, demand to be told the unpleasant truths, and brook no easy lies. 

And yes, we are going to have to wean ourselves off debt and learn to pay our way.  Because if we don't, we will condemn our children and our grandchildren to be debt slaves to Red China.

Monday
Mar142016

Senator Vitale endangers women

We understand from a highly placed source in the Legislature that S-283 will be making an appearance again.  Apparently Senator Joseph "I managed to make it through the 12th Grade" Vitale (D-McGreevey) is salivating over the prospects promised by this legislation.  This source also confirmed that S-283 will have GOP support.  Ouch, we didn't expect such a betrayal of the Republican base in an election cycle as rebellious as 2016-17 is turning out to be.   

If passed into law, S-283 allows a man, with a penis, to become a legal "woman", simply by saying that he is seeing a therapist and then re-submitting his birth certificate to reflect his "new sex".  No surgery required. 

And it won't be recorded as an "amended" birth certificate.  It will be filed as the original.  The government will pretend that it can go back in time to correct the "perception" of the doctors and nurses who saw a child with a penis and checked "male".  The government will, in fact, lie and pretend that the attending physician checked "female" when, of course, he did not.    

Now there is no public or private data that we can find to indicate any reason in a representative democracy for this legislation to enjoy such support.  So it seems that once again some billionaire is financing some backdoor lobby effort to get his little wet dream pushed ahead of all those issues he considers "minor" -- like child hunger, foreclosure, unemployment, debt, and the highest in America property taxes.

What S-283 will do is endanger the lives of women and girls in New Jersey.  And come election time every legislator who votes for S-283, regardless of their party, is going to have to answer some tough questions from average constituents about why you had to do this and not property tax relief. 

Watch the video below and see if you are ready to answer those questions: