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Schundler cries foul on state aid

Originally appeared in the Jersey Journal on 03/23/01
By Joseph Albright
Journal correspondent

TRENTON - Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler yesterday accused Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco and former Gov. Christie Whitman's administration of deliberately withholding state aid to embarrass him.

No other community in New Jersey is losing state aid like Jersey City, Schundler said at a Statehouse news conference, citing a decline from $93 million in 1993 to $76 million.

Schundler, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination against DiFrancesco, said the funds were deliberately held back starting in 1998, partially restored, then withheld again the last two years. The mayor said he deplored the city being placed in the "Distressed Cities" program.

The City Council was prepared to adopt its municipal budget in the fall but is still awaiting word from the DiFrancesco administration on how much Jersey City will receive in state funds - just three months from the June 30 close of the fiscal year.

Schundler accused DiFrancesco, who is also state Senate president, of "hypocrisy" and charged that he's "not deserving" to hold the office of governor.

DiFrancesco, said Schundler, is using state agencies to "distort" the record of Jersey City, which he said dramatically reduced property taxes, cut unemployment in half and increased personal income levels.

Schundler ridiculed DiFrancesco for criticizing tax breaks the city has granted corporations moving from New York to New Jersey when, the mayor said, the state Commerce Department asked Jersey City to grant incentives.

"No one - not the state and not Jersey City - should be apologizing for offering these businesses attractive incentives. Developing deals are now being signed almost every month," Schundler said.

Schundler boasted that he eliminated a $40-million structural deficit he inherited, and limited Jersey City's property tax levy increase to only 3 percent since 1990. He said the city also survived a 32-percent inflation rate increase and a 33-percent cut in real state aid since 1990.

By contrast, he said, Newark's budget increased by 81 percent and the state's by 51 percent.

Schundler argued that DiFrancesco is withholding state aid to claim it is a "distressed city," late in adopting the local budget, and then bail out the municipality.

Schundler attributed DiFrancesco's anti-Jersey City policies to the fact that a recent poll shows the mayor gaining for the GOP nod for governor.

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