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New Jersey’s ‘Failed Experiment’

April 19, 2010

The new governor is on a mission to make his state competitive again in attracting people and capital.

  

Chris Christie WSJ/Terry Shoffner

 

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Freeman gave a an insightful opinion column this weekend.  There is no shortage of discussion about Chris Christie and New Jersey’s budget.  Governor Chris Christie told the Journal’s editorial board: 

“I said all during the campaign last year that I was going to govern as if I was a one-termer and everybody felt that it was just stuff you say during a campaign to sound good. I think after the first 12 weeks, given the stuff I’ve done, they figure: ‘He’s just crazy enough to do it.'” 

Freeman points out: 

Many Democrats recognize the state’s deep-seated fiscal woes. Mr. Christie has already signed into law a bipartisan plan that begins to reform the state’s generous benefit system for government workers. Facing unfunded liabilities of $90 billion in pension and medical plans, Mr. Christie worked with lawmakers to change retirement benefits for new workers and to require all new state employees to pay 1.5% of their medical insurance costs. Until now they were paying nothing. 

Any more it is hard to imagine a state budget discussion without talking about the NJEA.  Freeman did not disappoint and pointed out, 

As you can imagine, the Christie agenda is not wildly popular among presidents of government-employee unions. To put it more precisely, Mr. Christie is now in a political street fight with the head of the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union that spent millions last year to defeat him. 

Governor Christie took the opportunity to differentiate his opinion about public school teachers and their union.  Christie said, 

 

“I’m a product of public schools in New Jersey, and I have great admiration for people who commit their lives to teaching, but this isn’t about them. This is about a union president who makes $265,000 a year, and her executive director who makes $550,000 a year. This is about a union that has been used to getting its way every time. And they have intimidated governors for the last 30 years.” 

Our Governor has proposed cuts in aid to local schools which could be entirely offset if existing teachers would forgo scheduled raises and agree to pay 1.5% of their medical insurance bill for one year, just as new state employees will be required to do every year.  This proposal is rejected by the NJEA and they suggest new taxes on small businesses and individuals making over $400,000.00.  Not that it matters to the NJEA but a Rasmussen poll found that 65% of New Jersey voters think that teachers should have a one-year pay freeze. 

The final 2010-2011 New Jersey budget is unknown.  It will be interesting to see who prevails.  Smart money says go with Christie. 

Special thank you to Gloucester Township’s John Custodio who helped with this post.

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