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ment. Where we have the organization, it is merely a matter of detail to rearrange its functions.
SOLDIERS' VOTING ACT CHANGES.
While the war is over it is possible that a considerable number of Jerseymen may be called upon to remain away from their legal residences in camps here or abroad for some time to come. In view of this fact I believe certain changes should be made in the soldiers' voting act based upon the recent and rather unsatisfactory experience. The provisions in the present statute obliging voting upon informal ballots to be done on election day and thereby necessarily allowing the boards of canvassers a period of thirty days after election in which to count ballots is, in my judgment, impractical and a direct invitation to fraud. The law should be so amended that the balloting may be done in a period sufficiently in advance of election day to make possible the receipt and counting of all ballots within a period not longer than ten days following the election. Certain duties imposed upon the Secretary of State in the present statute, such as ascertaining the names and post-office addresses of all men in the service at a certain period, have been found impossible of performance, and therefore should be modified in order that invitation for successful legal attack on technicalities be removed.
REFORM OF PENSION SYSTEM.
A legislative commission has been investigating State and municipal pensions as they apply to public school teachers, policemen, firemen and other public employees. This commission has reached the conclusion that our pension system is not on a sound financial basis, and that in some instances the pension methods are inequitable and unfair alike to the tax payers and to the class of employees affected. Of course, this is a situation so serious that it merits prompt and earnest legislative consideration. I recommend the careful consideration of bills which will be presented to you for the purpose of correcting the evils disclosed.
POSSIBILITIES OF HEALTH INSURANCE.
No consideration of genuine pension reform, however, can be complete unless it contemplates as the logical and ultimate foundation of the pension system health insurance. I know what a vast subject this is and appreciate the difficulties which have conspired to make all past attempts at consideration merely cursory and superficial. Yet I cannot refrain from leaving it with you as a thought, whether it is found practicable to attempt it in this session or postpone it for further consideration. Health insurance would seem to be even more vitally important to any pension system than New Jersey has found compensation insurance to be to its workmen's compensation system; in fact, health insurance would provide additional supports for our workmen's compensation system by conserving the physical vigor of our people against the constantly increasing demands of industry upon physical endurance. By automatically providing medical care and health instruction it is both curative and preventive and therefore must certainly operate to reduce the burden of any compensation or pension system, no matter what class of private or public employees are affected.
INCREASED COMPENSATION FOR INCAPACITATED WORKMEN.
It is our duty, it seems to me, to take into consideration at this time the fact that altered living conditions, involving greater expense in all human activity, have rendered the schedule adopted originally with our New Jersey Workmen's Compensation Act out of date and inadequate. The schedule needs revision in proportion as it requires more money to-day for the family of an injured workingman to live and for the latter to secure satisfactory treatment and aid than it did at the time our law was enacted. New Jersey was the first State in the Union to pass a satisfactory compensation act as a fair and sensible substitute for the old, unfair, costly and wholly unsatisfactory method of emphasizing through law suit an employer's liability. We have an admirable statute and we are justly proud of it. Nevertheless, it may not be
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expected to remain a thing of admiration and an instrument of exact justice unless we keep it up to date and in concert with changing conditions. I firmly believe employers will heartily agree that the present rates of compensation are inadequate to meet the needs of the incapacitated workingman and his family or other dependents. To this extent the law should be improved.
RE-EDUCATION, REHABILITATION FOR INJURED WORKMEN.
While we are considering improvements in our
Workmen's Compensation Law and health insurance, may I suggest that the principle of physical rehabilitation, and vocational training and guidance should eventually be extended to the industrial worker, as well as the injured soldier. It would certainly seem to be a far better economic proposition to expend the compensation stipulated for such rehabilitation and vocational instruction as might be necessary to make an injured worker a self-supporting citizen rather than to have this income expended with the sole thought of tiding the injured worker over the period when he is physically unable to work and leaving him at the last payment utterly unable to properly assume his previous obligations.
Neither is it sound policy to make payment of compensation predicated upon a moneyed consideration for a permanent injury, if a plan could be devised by which the man so afflicted coull be placed in the position of a self-supporting worker rather than that of a pensioner. Moreover, the worker should not be penalized for an injury by being made solely a dependent. Re-education, fitting him for some service of a valuable nature, removes him from a personal humiliation that he never deserved and is far more businesslike.
This subject is worthy of particular attention at this time by reason of the fact that much thought and energy will be given to this problem in helping the wounded soldiers, and much practical benefit can be derived from the experience gained. The organization and equipment found necessary for helping the soldiers could perhaps be made available for the injured industrial worker I commend this undertaking to your careful consideration.
ADEQUATE REVENUE FROM STATE SERVICE.
In these times, when the burden upon taxpayers generally is necessarily heavy, owing to both national and local demands, it seems to me very important that the State should receive all possible revenue that may in justice be expected for State service. Last year legislation of this character was provided resulting in many thousands of dollars of additional revenue, particularly in the Department of Labor. May I suggest that department heads be consulted by legislative committees for suggestions upon similar legislation this year?
Your attention will be directed to confusion in existing laws for the elimination of toll bridges. I urge amendatory legislation, so that a workable proposition, alike in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, may be devised for the condemnation of these structures when that course is necessary.
GROSS RECEIPTS TAX ACT.
While it is generally conceded that the gross income tax is a more scientific method than the old property tax, still I am sure it was not the intent of the last Legislature that the gross receipts tax act upon public utility companies should operate to the disadvantage of any municipalities through loss of revenue. If upon investigation such a result is apparent, I recommend added legislation designed to correct this situation, but maintaining the new system.
POST-WAR HOUSING PROBLEMS.
When the war started the State Department of Labor had made considerable progress on a plan to have manufacturers locating in suburban towns give consideration to a housing program at the same time that the sufficiency of their factory building and equipment was being passed upon by State officials. Of
course, the war interrupted any extensive operation of the plan, but if anything, the elaborate housing programs engineered by the great industries springing up as a result of the war merely served to emphasize the importance of government paying attention to housing conditions as well as to the safety and comfort of factory construction. I heartily favor any legislation which may be found necessary in order that through our Department of Labor, and perhaps with the co-operation of Federal authorities, a standard housing plan may be adopted in connection with our industries and effectively carried out.
It encourages healthful home surroundings and town development and discourages overcrowded tenements with the many consequent evils arising thereby.
A PERSONAL WORD.
I look forward with absolute confidence to a businesslike session, which will adequately serve the real needs of the hour and yet omit legislative surplusage serving purely personal ends and clogging the statute books. I feel certain that the even division of political power in one branch of the Legislature will not in any way interfere with the harmonious relations which we have hitherto enjoyed in our common task, or militate in any way against legislation so urgently needed in the interests of national and State welfare. I offer executive co-operation of the heartiest character, without regard to the personal or political authorship of bills, to the end that this session may well serve the purposes and needs of the people whom we represent.
May I embrace this opportunity, the last general message I shall submit to you, to express my earnest and sincere appreciation of the uniform co-operation and consideration those of you returning have universally shown, and to express the conviction that this relationship will continue whatever our separate responsibilities may be.
WALTER E. EDGE,