Gov. Chris Christie spent most of his Tuesday budget address talking about the state's supposedly crippling pension burden, tossing around billion-dollar numbers and warning of dire consequences without more reforms.
Compared to all that, the proposed closing of a workers' compensation court in Lebanon Township seems like pretty small potatoes.
Financially, it is — closing the court would save a grand total of about $160,000, plus some additional staff expenses. And that doesn't even come out of state funds; the courts are financed by the Second Injury Fund (SIF), revenue for which Is generated by surcharges and taxes on the workers' compensation insurance policies of employers.
So this isn't a meaningful budget issue; it falls under the category of micromanaging a minimal expense and claiming it's fiscally responsible. But the impact on the lives of injured workers who are already suffering could be significant, which makes the closure a poorly conceived idea that's hardly worth the modest savings it would achieve.
The Lebanon court now services three counties — Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren. Closing it would send workers in those counties involved in claims disputes to the next nearest court, either in New Brunswick in Middlesex County or Mount Arlington in Morris County. For most that will mean a longer commute — in some cases much longer — in areas that aren't exactly...
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