Thursday, March 04, 2010

Now, that's a leader!

Mike Shedlock has the transcript of a remarkable speech that Governor Chris Christie gave New Jersey mayor. (You can watch the video here.) Christie deals with the realities that New Jersey is facing, particularly the hole it has dug for itself with promising benefits to public employees that the state treasury just can't cover. He warns them that they have to wake up and realize that they can't keep giving public employees such generous benefits because those costs are eating up the rest of the budget.
As we move forward, and we evaluate what we need to do three weeks from now in our fiscal year 2011 budget address, you all need to understand the context from which we operate.

Our citizens are already the most overtaxed in America. US mayors hear it all the time. You know that the public appetite for ever increasing taxes has reached an end.

So when we freeze $475 million in school aid, I am hearing the reverberations from school boards saying now you are just going to force us to raise taxes.

Well there is a 4% cap in place as you all know, yet school boards continue to give out raises which exceed that cap, just on salary. Not to mention the fact that most of them get no contribution towards the spiraling increase in health care benefits.

Now, we are going to reduce spending at the state level. And we are going to continue to reduce it because we have no choice but to do so. Our obligation to you is twofold. One, is to let you know that. So I'm' letting you know that.

Second to work with the legislature to give you the tools helping you to reduce spending at the municipal level. Now the pension and benefit reform package that was passed unanimously in the senate this week begins to give you some of those tools.

But it is only a beginning.

Do we need to change some of the rules of arbitration to level the playing field to allow municipalities and school boards to have a more level sense of collective bargaining?

I think the evidence of ever increasing raises being given to public sector workers as a result of the arbitration system tells us that we do. [Applause From Mayors]

But you have to stand up and give the support to the legislators in this building to get them to do that. I can guarantee you this, that more pension and benefit reforms which I will consider arbitration reform to be one of them, are things that when they come to my desk, they will be signed. [Applause From Mayors]

Because we can no longer continue on a path where we say we are going to reduce spending at the state level but we are not going to give you any tools to do that at the municipal level and the school board level.

By the same token I am tired of hearing school superintendents and school board members complain that there are no other options than raising property taxes. There are other options.

You know, Marlboro, after a two year negotiation, they give a five year contract giving 4.5% annual salary increases to the teachers, with no contribution, zero contribution to health care benefits.

But I am sure there are people in Marlboro who have lost their jobs, who have had their homes foreclosed on, and who cannot keep a roof over their family's head there is something wrong.

You know, at some point there has to be parity. There has to be parity between what is happening in the real world, and what is happening in the public sector world. The money does not grow on trees outside this building or outside your municipal building. It comes from the hard working people of our communities who are suffering and are hurting right now.
Read the rest. It's an amazing speech simply because it's not often we hear such realism from political leaders. The biggest question is whether New Jersey's legislature is ready to live in the real world or if they're going to continue listening to their public employee union masters and vote taxes from the rest of New Jersey's citizens in order to fund benefits for the public sector. In a world of high unemployment and grim prospects, it's just not feasible to keep raising taxes to fund generous benefits for public employees. That might be an admirable thing to do during the fat times, but they're just buying trouble for themselves down the road. Governor Christie is showing a remarkably honest leadership. Will the rest of the New Jersey political class who have driven their state to this impasse be willing to wake up to reality?

(Link via Michelle Malkin)