Dear Editor:

New Jersey’s Mayors and local governing bodies don’t always agree on everything. But they know what they need to do to meet the public’s need for essential services. And every year, despite natural disasters, despite fluctuations in the economy, and despite actions taken – and not taken – by other levels of government, they adopt budgets and continue to deliver quality vital services.

As the partial shutdown of Federal agencies and services continues, the impact on the citizens and municipalities of our State will increase, incrementally. Immediate and personal impact will be felt on Friday, when over 5,000 New Jerseyans employed by the Federal government will not receive a paycheck. They comprise over 26% of our State’s total Federal workforce. For their sake, and for the sake of their families, we all need to be concerned.

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Significantly, New Jersey has been dead last or just above the bottom in the return it gets, in the form of federal spending, on the tax revenue it sends to Washington. For every dollar we pay in federal taxes, we get 76 cents back. And the new IRS limit on State And Local Tax deductions will only make matters worse.

Going forward, and with no compromise in sight, local officials need to know the facts.

First, five of the 12 total appropriations bills needed to fund federal programs and services have been enacted.  In addition to all “mandatory” spending programs, federal discretionary grant programs administered through several agencies will not be impacted by the partial shutdown. Our citizens can expect uninterrupted operations and payments from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. VA Hospitals and other veterans’ services should remain open. Before and after school programs funded by the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center grants should not be interrupted.

Unfortunately for local leaders, the federal agencies that will be shutting down are those that administer most federal grants allocated directly to municipal governments. Accordingly, federal discretionary grants, including HUD’s CDBG and HOME grants, DOJ’s COPS grants, DOT’s TIGER grants, EDA’s economic development grants, SBA’s small business loans, and USDA’s rural loans and grants, will be unavailable for reimbursement to local governments, and agency staff will generally be unavailable to answer questions or offer technical assistance throughout the duration of the partial government shutdown. Any local employees funded by federal grants may also be required to stop work.

We only ask our leaders in Washington to do their jobs. Now.

Colleen Mahr
Mayor, Borough of Fanwood
President, NJ League of Municipalities