RESPONSE TO GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:
The entire address was more about building Christie-the-candidate a national stature as a consensus-builder than about a vision for New Jersey. His vision is the White House in 2016.
It is not my intent to deny governor Christie partial credit for his incomplete achievements of 2011. The Public Pension and Health Benefits Reform was a painful necessity but its fiscal benefits are now outweighed by the state’s failure to make its required contributions to the system. The administration has continued on the irresponsible fiscal path of its predecessors and as a consequence, New Jersey finances may slide back to the situation where they were prior to the reform. What the governor has done is to gain some time on the back of the public workers.
The property tax cap similarly slows down the growth of property taxes in New Jersey. However, property taxes are still projected to increase around 24% within the next decade. Since this will occur against a backdrop of dismal growth and stagnant wages, the pernicious effects of this increase will be felt throughout the state, squeezing the lower and middle classes, pushing seniors out of their homes, and reducing even more the disposable income that citizens can put into the economy. Property taxes are regressive, toxic, and for New Jersey residents they have got to be abolished .
The governor has called 2012 the Year of Education Reform but it should be called the Year of Privatization of Education. The governor has demonized public teachers for two years. The emphasis on destroying teacher tenure has sordid implications for education in New Jersey. Without tenure, the teaching profession will become a playground for the politically connected. Teachers’ merit pay, as proposed, will destroy the cohesion of teaching staffs and will also lead to abuses and favoritism. The governor recently borrowed – from my K-12 program – the concept of lengthening school time but he is contradicting himself when he is simultaneously pulling funding away from public education to support private schools. Charter schools are even being imposed on the successful school districts of New Jersey.
The governor has failed to reduce in a meaningful way the number of independent subdivisions of government. He staged a mocked reduction in the Spring of 2011, eliminating several ghost agencies. But overall, the shadow government of New Jersey remains intact, as expensive as ever, and the governor has appointed a number of his cronies to important positions in several agencies, notably the Port Authority of NY and NJ. The governor will not strengthen Civil Service Law. That is a vital step to reduce political patronage and nepotism in public employment. Instead, he actually has proposed to do exactly the opposite in one his tool-kit proposals.
New Jersey lags in all the economic indicators with respect to the nation. This is not so much a consequence of what the state government is doing but rather what it is not doing. Indeed, indifference to the plight of the lower and middle classes has been one of the most remarkable features of this administration. The government has been equally incapable of genuinely supporting the renewable energy industry; one of the sectors which promises significant growth, good paying jobs, and which will be fundamental in meeting the energy needs of the future.
The proposal of a 10% tax cut is fiscally irresponsible unless government is drastically contracted and our tax and political systems are transformed. This across-the-board cut is another act of demagoguery, such as the democrats raising the minimum wage is. Both parties are competing in non-sense. They are again kicking the can down the road for another bigger crisis ten years away.
In the environmental protection field, the governor has abandoned the multi-state effort to reduce regional pollution and more recently opened the remaining rural areas of New Jersey to unlimited development without any regard to the ability of sewage treatment facilities to process the excess of inffluent sewage or the capacity of our waterways to handle more half-treated effluent. This latter decision, in a vain attempt to spur the economy, may have the deepest and most negative consequences for New Jersey. At stake is nothing less than the quality and safety of the bulk of our underground drinking water.
Finally, the governor is operating with one foot here and another on the national arena. He is often subordinating the interests of New Jersey to his personal ambitions in the presidential stage. New Jersey needs a committed governor; not one who runs around the nation like a prima dona vying for attention.
RESPONSE TO THE DEMOCRATS:
The democrats, with some notable exceptions, have been in docile tow of the governor’s policies up to the last minute, when they helped him gut the environmental state plan. They have tried to do damage control with two demagogic proposals: Support for same sex marriage and a minimum wage increase. Both measures were opposed by the democrats until the end of 2011, are copied from my agenda, and in one case – the minimum wage increase – it is woefully inadequate and may even have some negative effects if passed without reducing the government footprint.
The so-called millionaires tax is just another piece of demagoguery. Taxing a small group of people another 1% does nothing to solve the financial difficulties of New Jersey. To really tackle our fiscal problems and energize our economy at the same time, we need very drastic taxation and political reforms. We have serious structural problems in out huge government apparatus. A millionaires’ tax is just political opium for the masses.
The democratic party in New Jersey has lost all credibility for it was the main architect of the under-funding of the public pension systems for over a decade. That in turn has placed New Jersey in a very unsound fiscal footing and led to the downgrading of the state bonds by rating agencies in 2011. The democratic party is also behind some of the most blatant patronage in governmental institutions.
Democrats are on board with Governor Christie (and now the NJEA) on the attacks against public education. Elements of the democratic party are actively involved in privatization projects. Never have so many gone so low. Democrats are not a viable option to Christie.