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And the money battle begins: Lesniak looking for the money for RU facilities

Ray Lesniak has a proposal for kick starting the upgrading of Rutgers facilities....and Rowan's....and NJIT's.


There's an old saying that a camel is a horse that was built by a committee.  The quote has been attributed to a 20th Century Greek designer, Alec Issigonis, which I guess is appropriate in that we are talking about designing things and trying to get things accomplished in a democracy...another Greek creation.

Issigonis supposedly also said, "An expert is someone who tells you why you can't do something."  And there will be those folks around, as well.

And this all goes back to our champion, Senator Ray Lesniak, putting forth a bill in the New Jersey Senate that would allocate tax credits of $75 million, intended to be divided in equal shares of $25 million to Rutgers, Rowan University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and used for future development on their campuses.  The money is intended for "certain infrastructure at State's [three] public research universities".

And therein lies our camel.

Rutgers is, without any question, a research university.  NJIT has been designated as such, as well, and its credentials warrant it.  Then there's Rowan.  A "research university", primarily because the power brokers in South Jersey want, well, power.  Not that long ago, Rowan (nee Glassboro State College) was a teachers college, an old normal school for those who remember that term.  But with a $100 million gift in 1992, Rowan got some juice, and was the first state "college" to offer a doctoral degree.  Friends, that don't make it a research university.  But I digre$$.

It was Rowan that was supposed to be the beneficiary of the extraction of the Camden campus from Rutgers, a plan supported and pushed by state Senate President Steve Sweeney.  Who works hand in hand with South Jersey political power George Norcross.  Norcross, whose vitae includes:

  • Executive Chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew, a national insurance brokerage and employee benefits consulting firm
  • Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Cooper Health System and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey
  • He led the effort to create the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the first new medical school in New Jersey in 30 years, and to partner with the nationally renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center to create the MD Anderson Cooper Cancer Center.
  • In February 2012, he penned an op-ed in the Cherry Hill Courier Post...[calling] for the merger of Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden, positing it could be a "catalyst for the kind of renaissance that could make South Jersey an epicenter of intellectual and economic success for decades.

And the Camden-to-Rowan plan failed because Rutgers alumni, and others with some common sense and brains, pushed back.  And that led to the follow up attempt by Sweeney to usurp power from Rutgers, which sort of failed.  Getting a feel for the atmosphere we're working in?

Lesniak's bill, S2880, provides money for north Jersey (NJIT), central Jersey (Rutgers), and south Jersey (Rowan).  Everyone gets an equal share.

Based on some early comments posted under Keith Sargeant's story, there could be some push back from the public. But there could also be support, as evidenced by other comments.  Labor unions, who would benefit from construction jobs, and who generally are strong Democratic supporters, would be behind such a bill.

But what about the rest of the state?  New Jersey has had nine credit downgrades under the Christie administration, and the state is on a par with Illinois at the bottom of all states in credit worthiness. We have a Transportation Trust Fund that, through some magical monetary manipulation, won't go belly up....for another year.  We have a pension system that is in crisis.  And we now have a bill that wants to provide economic support for something that a lot of people in the state aren't quite sure is worth supporting.

For the most part, the folks who write and read On the Banks are supporters of Rutgers.  We want facilities to be upgraded, for Rutgers to be a world class school in all areas including athletics.  And Sen. Lesniak's bill may be a catalyst for the spending needed to move things forward.  But let's be honest: in my opinion, the bill was designed to garner support from a disparate and diverse group of people, and to reduce, minimize, or eliminate opposition.

I'm not an economist.  I think I got a B and a C in Econ 101/102, and that was a long time ago.  I wouldn't even venture into trying to explain - let alone understand - how parking tax credits get this done.  I just want Rutgers to have what it needs, in athletics and academics.  If this moves the needle, I'm in favor.  But understand, there's more here than just building a hoops practice facility. And I don't want to build a camel.