Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Phil Murphy Stuck on Repeat Mode


Phil Murphy has done an interview with Steve Adubato in which he again got a question about state aid and again failed to answer the question in any substantive, accurate way.  I do recommend you watch the interview, but if you don't have the time, don't worry about it, because Murphy gives the same exact substance-free answer on state aid he gave to interviewer Larry Mendte back in August 2016.

Larry Mendte had framed his state aid question to Phil Murphy in terms of "districts
being overfunded or underfunded with no rhyme or reason."  Steve Adubato framed his state aid question with a specific query about the problems non-Abbotts have, and referred to the fact that residents are often badly overtaxed and cannot stay in their homes.

Murphy's answer isn't just a rerun of his Larry Mendte answer, it's internally repetitive itself.

From 4:15.
Murphy: The good news is thank God the governor abandoned his so-called Fairness Formula. Which is the ultimate us-versus-them proposal. 
The bad news is we have a funding formula. It was blessed by our Supreme Court, it’s the only formula that has been Blessed. It was a national model... I want to go back and fund that formula.


This governor has under by over $8 billion. It’ll be over $9 billion by the time he he leaves. Let’s fund the formula.


If we fund the formula which again was viewed to be one of the most innovative formulas in the country. If we fund that formula and get our priorities straight again we find our way to answering the question you’ve asked.

Adubato: You’re convinced the funding formula as it exists makes sense. It’s a good plan?

Murphy: It’s a good plan. It needs to be updated.

It was blessed in 2008 and it’s never been funded.
Murphy three times praises "the formula" and three times says he will "fund the formula."  He makes zero references to where he would get the money to do this from and without acknowledging any flaws that might exist in the formula.

Murphy does, implicitly, give the amount he thinks is the deficit when he says that the formula has been underfunded by $1 billion a year by Chris Christie. That $1 billion deficit is accurate only so far as Capped Aid is concerned, but Capped Aid is an arbitrary, artificial, and yet statutory funding target that limits a district's aid growth to 10% or 20% of what it got in 2007-08.  The real full funding of SFRA is Uncapped Aid and for 2016-17 alone, the 379 underaided districts had a deficit of $1.93 billion.

(See "Phil Murphy Doesn't Understand State Aid")

Murphy does say that some "updates" are needed, which is a replay of his state aid statement at the NJEA conference when he said that some "tweaks" were needed to the formula.

Like in the Larry Mendte interview, Murphy gives the same inaccurate description of how SFRA works, claiming that it gives more money to districts with more single-parent households (it doesn't) and more money to districts with more special ed kids (it doesn't because SFRA assumes all districts have the same percentage of kids in special ed.).

Unfortunately Adubato didn't ask a follow-up question on aid per se, but he did ask questions about how Murphy would pay for his agenda in general, to which Murphy answered he would increase taxes on millionaires, cut hedge fund investments, and also a vague "you prioritize."

Sure.  New Jersey can prioritize, but the problem for us is that Murphy's priority isn't K-12 aid.  His priority seems to be pensions and post-retirement healthcare, and then transportation and a slew of initiatives including loan forgiveness for STEM majors, a child care tax credit, an increased senior property tax rebate, affordable housing, and grants for high-tech.  Within education, Murphy mentions PreK and higher ed far more than he mentions K-12.

Since the pension deficit alone is $2.5 billion for FY2018, the question for Murphy has to be "IF YOU DO NOT REDISTRIBUTE ADJUSTMENT AID, WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GETTING THIS MONEY?"

NJ needs to increase taxes on high-earners and Murphy supports this, but if the income tax for people making more than $1 million a year is raised to 10.75% it still only brings in $600 million.

Phil Murphy implicitly indicated in the Larry Mendte interview that he would not redistribute Adjustment Aid and Phil Murphy has given clearer indications of his support for aid hoarding and his differences with Steve Sweeney:

Phil Murphy, ever a pragmatic politician, did quietly endorse Steve Sweeney for the State Senate on March 20th, but in his endorsement, Murphy did NOT mention state aid reform as an issue they had in common:

I am pleased to endorse Senator Sweeney for re-election, and look forward to running together on a platform of growing our middle class and creating a new economy based on innovation, good-paying jobs, and fairness for workers — including equal pay for equal work. 
Steve and I share many of the same goals for the years ahead: raising the minimum wage, repairing our dangerously outdated infrastructure, creating ‘green’ jobs in the alternative energy field, and fully funding Planned Parenthood and ending Chris Christie’s politically motivated war on women. 
I look forward to working with Steve to make New Jersey a state that once again works for all of us.”
State aid reform has become Steve Sweeney's signature issue and Phil Murphy doesn't mention it. The question has to be "why?"

In September 2016, after the State Auditor came out with a blistering report condemning the unfairness of the state aid distribution, Murphy was similarly SILENT.

Yet, whenever any other example of Christie-misgovernment comes up, Murphy condemns it immediately:
Murphy isn't wrong about public transit, but when there are ZERO equivalent statements from him on state aid he shows he doesn't consider state aid that important.
 
Phil Murphy has never retweeted a state aid editorial by Steve Sweeney, but Phil Murphy retweeted



on March 21 a (significantly inaccurate) state aid editorial written by NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer which demanded that New Jersey wait until the next governor to change anything about state aid, demanded that charter school funding be part of any change, and which criticized Steve Sweeney's aid proposal as something that "pit students and communities against each other in a fight over inadequate resources."

A retweet does not imply that the person retweeting the statement agrees with everything he or she is retweeting, but when Phil Murphy rarely mentions state aid at all, never talks specifics, repeatedly gives inaccurate depictions of how SFRA is supposed to work, doesn't know what the real funding deficit is, never shows any emotion about the disasters occurring in districts like Bayonne, Freehold Boro, Egg Harbor Township, Chesterfield, Paterson, and has never shown any disagreement with the NJEA, my belief that Phil Murphy will not do the right and fair things on state aid.


I don't want this blog post to be entirely negative.  Jack Ciattarelli (who actually is a public school parent) also did an interview with Steve Adubato and, in a very short space of time, laid out a comprehensive, realistic vision for state aid. Unlike Murphy, Ciattarelli talked specifics and even used terms like "Adjustment Aid," "Local Fair Share," "Adequacy," and "PILOTs."  See Minute 4:55.

Although in that Adubato interview Ciattarelli doesn't give any examples of school districts facing crisis, he has done so on numerous other occasions, and the districts he mentions aren't Republican bastions for whom Ciattarelli is trolling for votes from.

So, if state aid is your priority issue, the best candidate appears to be running on the Republican side.

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See Also:

See Also:

Bury Pensions take on Phil Murphy's vapidity.

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