Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Sets the Bar High with Fiscally Conservative Speech to Legislature

I just heard about this today, but I must say that I believe New Jersey Governor Chris Christie set the bar in a wonderful way when he delivered a detailed and aggressive speech to State Legislators last Friday.

Christie blasted New Jersey's ridiculously high taxes and outrageous fiscal irresponsibility as he detailed his plans to bring The Garden State back from the edge of bankruptcy.

"New Jersey is in a state of financial crisis," Christie said to the Democratically controlled State Legislature. "Our state’s budget has been left in a shambles and requires immediate action to achieve balance. For the current fiscal year 2010, which has only four and one-half months left to go, the budget we have inherited has a two billion dollar gap."

Christie continued, "What do I mean exactly? This year’s budget projected 5.1 % growth in sales tax revenue and flat growth in corporate business tax revenues. In June of 2009, was there anyone in New Jersey, other than in the department of treasury, who actually believed any revenues would grow in 2009-2010? With spiraling unemployment heading over 10%, with a financial system in crisis and with consumers petrified to spend, only Trenton treasury officials could certify that kind of growth.

In fact, sales tax revenue is not up 5%, it is down 5.5 %; and corporate business tax revenue is not flat, it is down 8%. Any wonder why we are in such big trouble? Any question why the people don’t trust their government anymore and demanded change in November?

Today, we must make a pact with each other to end this reckless conduct with the people’s government. Today, we come to terms with the fact that we cannot spend money on everything we want. Today, the days of Alice in Wonderland budgeting in Trenton end."

Christie reminded the legislature that New Jersey's Constitution requires a balanced budget. He then went on to say that he had already signed an executive order freezing the necessary state spending to balance the budget.

He presented in great detail the fact that many programs will be delayed or completely terminated. He described that some projects, such as capital improvements to state buildings, correctional facilities, and state parks would be delayed. Others he said, such as former Governor Corzine's InvestNJ would be terminated and replaced with a more well conceived plan for business development and job creation.

Christie continued his announcements by declaring that he was cutting the subsidy for the New Jersey Transit system.

"New Jersey transit will have to improve the efficiency of its operations, revisit its rich union contracts, end the patronage hiring that has typified its past, and may also have to consider service reductions or fare increases," he stated. "But the system needs to be made more efficient and effective."

He then discussed the state's pension situation by saying,

"The state cannot this year spend another $100 million contributing to a pension system that is desperately in need of reform. I am encouraged by the bi-partisan bills filed in the Senate this week to begin pension and benefit reform. I commend President Sweeney and Senator Kean for leading the way to begin this long overdue set of reforms. I am sure our Assembly colleagues will follow suit with the same kind of bi-partisan effort.

These bills must just mark the beginning, not the end, of our conversation and actions on pension and benefit reform. Because make no mistake about it, pensions and benefits are the major driver of our spending increases at all levels of government—state, county, municipal and school board.

Also, don’t believe our citizens don’t know it and demand, finally, from their government real action and meaningful reform. The special interests have already begun to scream their favorite word, which, coincidentally, is my nine year old son’s favorite word when we are making him do something he knows is right but does not want to do—“unfair.”

Let’s tell our citizens the truth—today—right now—about what failing to do strong reforms costs them."

After laying out details of the exorbitant expenses involved in pensions, Christie came to the most controversial subject of his speech; aid to public schools.

"The previous administration severely underestimated our budget gap, and it proposed to reserve some $230 million in school aid – yet it did not offer a legislative solution to achieve this number, and once again, left important business unfinished.

I am implementing a solution which insures that every school district has the resources to provide a thorough and efficient education to its students.

Our solution does not take one penny from an approved school instructional budget. Not one dime out of the classroom. Not one text book left un-bought. Not one teacher laid off. Not one child’s education compromised for one minute. Not one dollar of new property taxes will be needed.

The union protectors of the status quo will claim otherwise—once again, they will be proven to be self-interested and wrong."

He stated on more than one occasion that he understands some of his decisions will be unpopular, but reiterated that these are the tough decisions that must be made in order to close a $2 billion budget gap.

In total, Christie announced plans for cuts in 375 programs which reach across all areas of the budget.

I believe Chris Christie has done an excellent job of setting the bar for a new-found fiscal responsibility across America. He acknowledged the difficulties that will lie ahead, expressed the need to not repeat the obvious failures of the past, and gave honest hope for a positive future moving forward with real reforms.

A full transcript of Governor Christie's speech is available here, or you can watch the speech in three segments here.

1 comment:

The Conservative Lady said...

I heard about this on Rush's show today. As a former NJ resident and a person who lives in NJ for almost half the year, I am thrilled that finally some fiscal responsibility has come to that godforsaken state.
I pray that other states will take similar actions and that our federal government, by some miracle (maybe as a result of the elections in Nov 2010), will jump on the bandwagon of fiscal responsibility.