Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PMUA ratepayer relief 'reform': Shadow or substance?

Tuesday evening was the maiden meeting of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority's new executive director, former Plainfield corporation counsel Dan Williamson.

Among the items at the brief (approximately twenty minutes) business meeting was a resolution presented by the PMUA's legal counsel Leslie London to submit a draft proposal for legislation granting ratepayers of local utilities authorities (such as the PMUA) a tax deduction on sewer rates as assessed.

The argument of critics of the PMUA has been that before the authority was established and sewer rates were part of the property owner's tax bill, they were allowed to be tax-deductible.

Ms. London underscored that the draft legislation was a proposal only, and the resolution -- which was adopted unanimously -- would only guarantee that the proposal would be forwarded to Assemblyman Jerry Green for his review and consideration.

Mr. Williamson, who had promised when his impending appointment became public knowledge that he would undertake to address ratepayer concerns once he assumed the director's chair, appears to be making good on his word.

It is fair, though, to ask whether this is more shadow than substance.

Referring draft legislation to Assemblyman Green is painless as far as the PMUA goes, and needn't go any further in order for the agency to defuse ratepayer resentment over the issue. Score one for Williamson.

As for Assemblyman Green, while he may simply read and ignore the proposal, he stands to also gain by at least introducing it as a bill into the Assembly. This would typically involve rounding up at least one co-sponsor (which should not be that hard to do since ratepayers of other local authorities would be affected) and having the bill logged in.

Green would score a point with ratepayers for having done at least this much, whatever the proposal's fate in the Legislature (my guess is that it would not be referred to his committee), and that certainly would stand him in good stead when he is up for re-election next year.

The real issue, of course, is whether any of this Kabuki theater means anything of substance to the ratepayers, since the tax deduction in question is a matter of IRS regulations and the NJ Legislature's writ runs only to matters concerning New Jersey.

In any event, my hunch is that this new approach by the PMUA -- which was just as available to Mr. Watson as to Mr. Williamson, though differences in personality and approach may have governed their different tacks -- is likely to take some of the steam out of the anti-PMUA forces.

Coupled with Mayor Robinson-Briggs' adoption of the age-old British parliamentary tactic of studying a question to death which Bernice (see here) and Olddoc (see here) documented this week (will the report be published in the famous 'Blue Book' format?), I can see the PMUA receding in political importance.

Providing, that is, that rates are either held steady or reduced.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Has Mr. Director Williamson paid his PMUA bill?

Anonymous said...

A tax deduction and the mayor's inside committee is no panacea for everything else that has flowed under the bridge at PMUA.

They're scrambling to cover their tracks now that there are many sets of eyes looking more closely at events both recent and long down the memory hole.

A round of layoffs (PMUA is way over-staffed so this may be the only way to rate relief) will probably begin to loosen a few tongues, and then the whole decrepit regime running this city may come tumbling down.

They don't call Jerry the "puppet master" for nothing.

Bob said...

This may be putting the fox in charge of the hen house. We have a director who knows little about his job or how an authority like the PMUA works. I don't think the rate payers are going to stop complaining any time soon. We're still getting ripped-off and people at the top of the PMUA are getting paid a fortune in salaries and benefits for doing little, but ripping the public off.

GB said...

How about free donuts for everyone also, that has just as much of a chance as it would need to be statewide and we know how likely that will happen.

Anonymous said...

Their draft proposal isn't going to do a thing. Everyone knows the relief in taxes that we get is at the federal level. You don't get any real relief at the state level so even IF the state were to adopt the PMUA's draft proposal, the ratepayers would still foot the bill. The only resolution they should be bringing forth is one to dissolve the PMUA. Plainfielders pay some $450 PER TON to dispose of garbage. Almost every other city in NJ pays something like $124 per ton. It's a pure racket!

Anonymous said...

No Dan- this issue will not go away with this feeble attempt. They have always thought that Plainfield residents are idiots. This just shows again that they continue to think we are going to fall for these useless, meaningless "efforts". We just keep recycling the same useless people in Plainfield who have kept this city from reaching its full potential. I just consider my payment of PMUA bill a charity donation for the mentally disadvantaged.