Posted by cjrothma November 19, 2008 16:54PM
Frustration over tough budget times spilled over today at the normally placid League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City, where a critic of Gov. Jon Corzine provoked a testy exchange with members of the Cabinet.
Former Glen Ridge Mayor Carl Bergmanson, who waged an unsuccessful effort to recall Corzine from office earlier this year, drew cheers from attendees at a mayors’ luncheon when he used an expletive to say the administration was punishing small towns by blaming them for high property taxes.
State Treasurer David Rousseau and Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria called the criticism unfair and insisted they are doing their best to cut costs in a bleak economy.
That left league officials to play referee, with the president, East Orange Mayor Robert Bowser, cutting off the back-and-forth to boos from the crowd.
William Dressel, the league’s executive director, spent the moments before the lunch disposing of anti-Corzine bumper stickers that appeared beneath the mayors’ sandwiches and potato chips.
The unrest came during a stressful time for state and local officials, who are struggling to predict the New Jersey consequences of the economic downturn. Last week, Corzine and Rousseau announced the state faces a $1.2 billion shortfall in its current budget and a hole of $5 billion for the next fiscal year.
As Rousseau combs the budget line-by-line for savings, local officials said they are concerned about the impact on municipal aid and their own finances.
“There’s considerable frustration and anxiety,” Dressel said. But, he said, “it’s too early to start casting rocks and name-calling and passing out degrading slogans…We’re all in this boat together.”