Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem) that would promote taxpayer savings through the elimination of government redundancies, cleared the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

“Sharing services is a great way to provide more efficient government while at the same time creating savings for taxpayers,” said Sweeney. “Towns can share services with each other while not losing their individual identity or the uniqueness of their communities. Given the current economic climate, it is clear that sharing services is an idea whose time has come.”

The legislation, S-2794, would require New Jersey’s Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) to study local government units (county government, municipal government, school districts) to determine where taxpayer dollars could be saved through sharing of services. If the study shows that a savings can be realized through sharing that service in one or more local governments, the question of whether to do so or not would be put to a public referendum in all municipalities involved. If the towns involved fail to pass the proposal, they would be subject to losing state aid in the amount equal to what they would have saved had they shared the service. If one town approves it but another denies it, only the town that denied it would lose aid.

“The taxpayers of New Jersey should not have to foot the bill for those government entities that do not wish to run more cost-effectively,” said Sweeney. “The property tax burden on New Jerseyans has become too much. It is time we start providing the necessary incentives to get us moving on shared services. Simply put, if a town can save money through sharing services and decides not to do so, they are going to lose out on state aid.”

Civil service rules would be suspended for employees impacted by any shared services agreement that is reached. This would address a concern raised by local government leaders that civil service rules serve as a barrier to sharing services. In putting together the legislation, Senator President Sweeney met with numerous local elected officials who provided valuable input on the issue of shared services.

Shared services reform is the third in a series of comprehensive reforms Senate President Sweeney has proposed this year. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation to reform the state’s broken pension system and to reform public employee health benefits. Senate President Sweeney’s reforms would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to New Jersey taxpayers, allow local officials to rein in property taxes, and implement measures that are fair to lower and middle income workers.