NJ lawmaker takes aim at county governments

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to count out county government.

A bill introduced by Assemblyman Robert Auth calls for a study of the best way to dissolve the 21 county governments in the Garden State.

“New Jersey has an affinity for home rule. We like to govern our own little municipalities, and then you can have the state. And between the two of them, that should be fine,” said Auth, R-Bergen. “It’s kind of an obscure system, county government, that’s outlived its usefulness at this point.”

Eliminating county governments could save as much as $2 billion a year, he estimated Friday.

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The counties of New Jersey (Map via www.state.nj.us)

But New Jersey Association of Counties executive director John Donnadio disagreed, saying county government can reduce taxes by providing regional services.

“Counties are providing 911 police dispatch service, which was typically a municipal function, garbage pickup services, animal control services, tax collection services, across the state at a significant cost savings for taxpayers,” Donnadio said.

Auth’s bill also has some formidable legislative opposition.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, who has championed efforts to consolidate services among New Jersey’s 565 municipalities, does not favor doing away with county governments.

“More shared services will reduce government costs … and, honestly, county governments are the best vehicle to do those shared services,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “So I can assure you that bill won’t be moving in the Senate anytime soon.”

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