Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Governing like an adult in New Jersey

One of the most exciting political stories of the past year is the election of Governor Christie in New Jersey. What is remarkable is that Christie is taking a realistic attitude towards New Jersey's $11 billion deficit. Instead of doing what New Jersey's politicians have been doing which is trying to fix the problem by taxing the rich all the while they increased state spending, Governor Christie is acting like an adult and trying to cut the spending side of the equation. But those who have been eating at the public trough for so long are resentful of having that public spigot turned down a bit. Bill McGurn summarizes some of the arguments that Christie has made to answer the yowls of protest from his critics.
However quaint that may sound, when you have to cut nearly $11 billion in state spending to get there, you are going to get a lot of yelling and screaming. Most comes from the New Jersey Education Association, hollering that "the children" will be hurt by Mr. Christie's proposals for teachers to accept a one-year wage freeze and begin contributing something toward their health plans. What makes the battle interesting is the way Mr. Christie is throwing the old chestnuts back at his critics.

Here are a few examples, culled from his budget address, public meetings and radio appearances:

The children will be the ones to suffer from your education cuts. "The real question is, who's for the kids, and who's for their raises? This isn't about the kids. Let's dispense with that portion of the argument. Don't let them tell you that ever again while they are reaching into your pockets."

Your policies favor the rich.
"We have the worst unemployment in the region and the highest taxes in America, and that's no coincidence."

Why not renew the 'millionaire's tax'? "The top 1% of taxpayers in New Jersey pay 40% of the income tax. In addition, we've got a situation where that tax applies to small businesses. I'm simply not going to put my foot on the back of the neck of small business while I want them to try to grow jobs by giving more revenue to New Jersey."

Budget cuts are unfair.
"The special interests have already begun to scream their favorite word—which, coincidentally, is my 9-year-old son's favorite word when we are making him do something he knows is right but does not want to do—'unfair.' . . . One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life, and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits—a total of $3.8 million on a $120,000 investment. Is that fair?"

State budget cuts only shift the pain to our towns. "[L]et's remember this, in 2009 the private sector in New Jersey lost 121,000 jobs. In 2009, municipalities and school boards added 11,300 jobs. Now that's just outrageous. And they're going to have to start to lay some people off, not continue to hire at the pace they hired in 2009 in the middle of a recession."
What a breath of fresh air! It will be fascinating to keep an eye on what Christie is trying to accomplish and see the results after four years. Democrats have been governing the state for years and they're the ones who created this. They did such an awful and corrupt job that this blue state turned to a Republican to come in and clean up after them. If he can get his budget cuts through the state legislature, the state may actually have a chance of turning the corner. At least the citizens will know that they have a governor who will treat them like adults who can understand that there is no way the state can continue to tax everyone in order to shovel more money to public employees.