Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Parsing NJEA's Tax Filings & Considering NJ's Fiscal State if Christie Wasn't Governor

Jeff Bennett at New Jersey Education Aid asks this question: if Jon Corzine had won another term or Barbara Buono had beat Christie in New Jersey's 2013 gubernatorial election -- in other words, if N.J. had a “dream progressive governor” -- would state finances be better than the current morass?

For his answer (spoiler: it’s “no”) look to Connecticut’s governor Dannell Malloy, who did everything in Connecticut that Democrats wish Christie had done in N.J.: raise taxes and impose Combined Reporting, which treats wholly or majority-owned companies as single entities for tax purposes. And now Connecticut is in worse shape than N.J.

Whatever you think of Christie’s questionable ethics and new gig as Trump puppet, Bennett explains that “the notion pushed by groups like the NJ Policy Perspective and Education Law Center that all Chris Christie has to do is govern like a Democrat and New Jersey will be a-okay doesn't seem plausible to me.”

Read his whole post to get the details. But one aspect jumped out at me: those two groups that “push this [flawed] notion” that N.J.’s finances would be hunky-dory with un-Christie leadership rely on funding from the New Jersey Education Association. According to 2014 tax filings (the most recent available on Guidestar), NJEA contributed $553,500 to Education Law Center and $125,000 to N.J. Policy Perspective. NJEA has a long list of contributions, but that list is dwarfed by the union’s generosity towards two groups that share their agenda on school financing and pension contributions.

The National Education Association, NJEA's mothership, contributed an additional $75,000 to ELC in 2014. That combined $628,500 is more than a third of ELC's total contributions and grants.

ELC, of course, is a strident advocate for shutting down expansion of charter schools, a primary planks of NJEA’s agenda. In addition, Stan Karp, ELC’s Director of the Secondary Education Reform Project, is a member of FairTest, the group that advocates opt-out (“Just Say No To Tests!”) and opposes the use of student outcomes in teacher evaluations, another big focus of NJEA's lobbying efforts.

One other item from NJEA’s 990: its largest contribution in 2014 (accrued from mandatory teacher dues) was  $9,298,172 to Garden State Forward, NJEA’s super PAC that finances campaigns for legislators friendly to its agenda. In 2013  Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of ELEC told NJ Spotlight, “This is unprecedented. When you combine NJEA’s lobbying and campaign spending, no single interest group has ever come close.”

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