Strings attached to N.J. ‘transitional aid’

    Financially distressed towns in New Jersey that want to get extra state aid now must impose tougher restrictions on campaign donations.

    State law allows vendors selected through an open and fair process to make campaign contributions. As part of a memorandum of understanding they have to sign to be considered for “transitional aid,” towns are being required to ban vendors from giving to committees that fund local elections.

    Heather Taylor of the Citizens Campaign said the ban is needed to ensure towns use taxpayer funds wisely.

    “It makes sure that government contracts are awarded on merit and cost effectiveness and not used as rewards for political favoritism,” said Taylor. “So, hopefully, this will leverage reform from the bottom up and we’ll see the Legislature adopt a comprehensive pay-to-play law.”

    Twenty-five cities and towns have agreed to the restrictions that also require them to freeze salaries for elected officials and get state approval before hiring workers to fill any new positions.

    Morris Smith, borough solicitor for Lawnside, said the Camden County community will vote next month on whether to agree to the conditions for “transitional aid.”

    “It’s something that’s necessary for the borough to do, and from a governing standpoint the mayor and council don’t have a problem with tightening the requirements for campaign contributions from possible vendors and things like that,” said Smith. “That’s not an issue for them.”

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