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For many weeks our State Department of Labor, through its employment bureau facilities and its careful post-war survey of industry, has been securing the means of livelihood for discharged soldiers and sailors—actually getting them jobs. Other State departments have been quietly studying conditions and preparing and are ready to equip you with all details and possibilities of the situation. By proclamation the efforts of all State and municipal departments and of all organizations have been mobilized and concentrated in one central channel toward the desired end. But more must be done, and on a larger scale. No task confronting you is nearly so important as providing for the smooth, convenient and satisfactory return to peaceful pursuits of the one hundred and fifty thousand Jersey patriots who within the last two years unselfishly gave up their ordinary occupations for military and kindred service. They dedicated their lives to the common cause; the least we can do is to dedicate our resources to their comfort and welfare.
No doubt private business, with its trained efficiency and unfailing resourcefulness, will absorb more of this released labor than we suspect. Nevertheless, it would be nothing short of a tragedy if without proper preparation the millions of men in the military service were to be suddenly and at one time thrown back into a labor market glutted, perhaps, by the slackening of activities naturally to be expected in munition factories and other strictly "war enterprises.” The Federal Government appreciates this situation and will doubtless take such steps to meet it as will require the hearty co-operation of all State governments. New Jersey should be ready to give this co-operation without stint, and, as usual, anticipate the responsibility.
PLANS FOR FEDERAL CO-OPERATION.
I bespeak your prompt and earnest consideration of some practical plan for acquiring through co-operative Federal and State action some of the vast acreage of cut-over land in New Jersey, and also cleared land that is idle, for the purpose of providing farm homes for returning soldiers and sailors. New Jersey has available land—plenty of it—and I am sure we are ready to look after details of obtaining and parceling the farms if the Federal Government will attend to the financing. In the latter function the Federal Government has a much freer hand than the State. As one concrete suggestion, and awaiting definite Federal financing, I call your attention to the possibilities for so safeguarding and refining our Homestead Association Act (P. L. 1888, page 231) that these organizations be encouraged for the purpose of co-operating with the plan of Federal land banks and thus enabling service men to secure valuable farms without a penny of capital. These banks advance fifty per cent. of the purchase price for farm land, taking a mortgage payable in forty annual installments. Our Homestead Associations, if properly stimulated and encouraged, would play an important part in those cases where the seller of the farm declines to take a second mortgage for the balance of the purchase price; the association would take the second mortgage and advance the balance. This is one very successful function of the Hebrew Agricultural Aid Society, endowed with the Baron de Hirsch Fund, and I see no reason why the principle and practice cannot be extended for the benefit of all discharged soldiers and sailors through our encouragement, in every proper way, of associations formed for this purpose and adequately endowed by public-spirited and patriotic citizens of this State.
I submit, also, that the time is opportune for New Jersey to urge the Federal Government to take advantage of our legislation of 1917 and join with New Jersey in the immediate building of a cross-State ship canal. Federal legislation is pending. Here is a public work, not only highly valuable in the interest of the nation's trade, but also offering limitless opportunity for the absorption of labor. Of course, immediate action is essential if the project is to serve the purpose of reconstruction. But nothing is impossible where there is a will. If the Federal Government is ready and acts, I recommend that New Jersey proceed immediately with its part of the bargain. As an augury of good faith let us, at this session, actually appropriate the money, contingent upon favorable action by Congress.
Of course, you will want to make proper financial provision for continuing the State Council of Defense, which will be helpful in all communities in the problems attending demobilization, and also for the Federal-State-Municipal Employment System, which is now exceptionally well organized in our State and already a potent factor in the solution of all employment problems.
STEPS REQUIRING STATE INITIATIVE.
In addition to these steps of co-operation, I believe the problems following demobilization sufficiently important to warrant New Jersey taking the initiative as well.
Public works in both State and municipality which have been held up more or less by embargoes during the war should now be pushed with all intelligent vigor as one solution of the problem. Never was there less excuse for narrow, demagogic objections to the spending of public moneys wisely on needed public improvements. Under any circumstances I question the wisdom of political parties challenging each other or bidding for popular support on the alleged accomplishment of spending less money. New Jersey should spend more than it does on its roads, its institutions, educational and charitable, and improvements in the interest of happy, contented citizenship. Inability to expend public moneys prudently and intelligently is a political liability quite as intolerable as extravagance and waste; in fact, it amounts to the same thing, for public wealth uninvested, like the horse in the stable and idle machinery, represents loss. But, now, facing as we are the necessity of meeting exigencies and emergencies incident to post-war adjustment, the false economy of refusing to progress because progressing costs money is revealed in all its folly and littleness.
PUSH ROAD BUILDING AS ONE SOLUTION.
At this time our greatest public work in New Jersey is the State Highway System, and I believe this project should be pushed so vigorously that it will provide employment for thousands of men returning from military service, if not actually in road building itself, then in the various industries from whence the supplies and equipment for road construction come.
I am aware of the fact that the platforms adopted by both political parties last fall promised a suspension of highway taxation until such time as hostilities ceased and normal prices returned. The first of these contingencies is disposed of; hostilities have ceased. The second is as emphatically satisfied when it is taken into consideration that the only tax levy which this session of the Legislature could possibly suspend would be that of 1919-20, or fees collectable in December next, and I believe it will be conceded that prices of materials and labor will be as nearly normal at that time as we can ever hope to have them. Nothing would be gained by paralyzing highway building in 1920 or later. In fact, actual harm would be done taxpayers of the State, for important roads which must be maintained would be going to rack and ruin in the meantime, occasioning a larger expenditure when the work is taken up ultimately. The sum of about six million dollars has been collected in the past two years under our scheme of raising three million dollars per year for a period of five years for our highway system. Under the first three million dollars contracts have been let for work on ten of the routes outlined, and I am advised by the Highway Department that during the coming year it will be possible to proceed with and complete all of these outstanding contracts, which were temporarily suspended under Federal orders. Again, the department has before it a program covering the work intended for 1919, to be paid for from the second tax levy of three million dollars, and purposes to have plans prepared so that contracts may be let for the work under this program as soon as the construction season opens. Manifestly, this much of the road program, already in process, will afford a large and expanding field for labor, and I feel that nothing should be done which would in any way curtail the activities of the Highway Department subsequently. Let us encourage, too, treatment of dirt roads and other purely county or township highways by some common, State-supervised formula, so that these roads will not be things apart, but important links in the State chain of highways. The legislative committee will have important recommendations on this subject, and I bespeak your earnest consideration of the concrete form in which the matter will be presented.
HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT SOLIDLY FOUNDED AND PREPARED.
May I at this point digress for a moment to call your attention officially to facts touching upon the thorough organization and actual constructive accomplishments of the Highway Department as constituted in New Jersey. This is important, in my judgment, because it is your plain duty to stimulate and encourage in every way the Highway Department, in the big and important task ahead, if it is soundly organized and prepared for the job. What are the facts? The Highway Department, notwithstanding obstacles due to the war which I have recited elsewhere, is to-day a going concern with outstanding contracts amounting to $2,500,000.00; and it will be ready in the spring to let additional contracts to the amount of $3,000,000.00. Considering the State Highway tax levy of $3,000,000.00, the Motor Vehicle Fund apportioned among counties for road purposes, of $2,000,000.00, the State Aid Appropriations to counties of $500,000.00, the Township Aid Fund of $105,000.00, and the amounts spent by the various counties in conjunction with the State Motor Vehicle Fund and State Aid Fund over which the Highway Department exercises supervision by approval of plans and specifications and inspectionconsidering these latter amounts of $3,750,000.00, it will be seen that the annual business of or funds administered by our Highway Department aggregates the grand total of $9,355,000.00. Contrast this with the further fact that the total annual cost of operating the Highway Department, including salaries, rentals, advertisements, postage, expenses of field forces, expenses of commission and the like, is $260,000.00, and it will be seen that it costs the State but $260,000.00 to administer $9,355,000.00, or a total expense of administration amounting to about three