By Assemblyman Will Barclay
New laws recently signed by the Governor will eliminate 120 inactive local authorities and agencies.
I was pleased to support these bills in the Assembly.
The laws repealed the “statutory authorization” for authorities or agencies that were already defunct or never established by local municipalities in the first place.
In all cases, their services were either no longer needed or were already being handled or duplicated by another board. The law transfers the entities’ books, records and rights to the municipality where each is located.
Such agencies included urban renewal agencies, solid waste management authorities, and parking authorities. Mostly, the new laws streamlined the books for municipalities. This is a good step in an effort to cut government spending and reduce property taxes. This means that 120 fewer authorities and agencies have the authority to bond or borrow on the taxpayers’ dime.
The state adopted the Public Authorities Reform Act in 2009 to limit the expansion of state and local quasi-public agencies and make them more accountable to the public. The agencies and authorities that were done away with were recommended by the Authorities Budget Office, as a result of the earlier reform act. I was pleased to support this effort in the Assembly as well.
Over the years, we created too many agencies and authorities.
State authorities issued $14 billion in debt last year and have $141.9 billion in outstanding debt, according to a recent report from the Authorities Budget Office.
Local authorities issued $14.5 billion in debt last year and have $91.4 billion outstanding. I’m glad to see some of this borrowing ability reduced with the elimination of some of these agencies and authorities.
The report states that virtually every resident is impacted by their financial decisions.
Though this was a great first step, more still needs to be done to eliminate government waste and duplicate services.
We can start by passing legislation that would require legislative approval for any agency regulation costing over $5 million.
We should also reinstate a “division of regulatory relief” with the power to cut red tape and give job creators the ability to share concerns about any harassment from state agencies, rather than wait for legislation or the Governor to change policies. Further, many state agencies are known for penalizing businesses instead of working with them.
The report also states: “It is time for a comprehensive debate on the future of our public authorities…We need to reach consensus on practical ways to manage the proliferation of local authorities, assure that their financial decisions promote sustained economic growth across the state and the creation of career oriented jobs, and examine opportunities to consolidate, eliminate or restructure authorities, at the state and local level, with similar missions or common public purpose. We need to amend our laws to establish the legal framework within which we expect authorities to operate in the future. We also must consider better enforcement tools that will heighten compliance with statutory and ethical standards and instill trust that the decisions of public authority directors and executives are being made in the best interests of the public.”
With this latest bill, we eliminated roughly one-fifth of the public agencies and authorities.
We’ve had two consecutive years of on-time budgets, we eliminated a budget deficit in excess of $13 billion by cutting spending, eliminating government waste and reformed the tax code to provide much needed tax relief to middle class families.
I’m glad we can add reducing public authorities and agencies to the list of accomplishments.
Taxpayers deserve more transparency and having fewer agencies that can manage public funds is one way to do so.
I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Assembly to pass legislation which helps better represent the public’s interest and reduces taxes and government overreach.
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