Governor Chris Christie and Democrats continue to be at odds following the resolution of the pensions and health benefits reform package and the finalization of the 2011-12 budget. State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Governor Christie appear to have had a “falling out” from an already fragile relationship. In addition, accusations are being levied against the Governor that the recent cuts in social programs were made as retaliation against those who disagreed with Christie.
Nancy Erika Smith, an attorney and chairperson of a program for abused children in Newark, has suggested that cuts to the program were payback for speaking out against the Governor regarding his position on administrative issues. Christie is accused of “bullying” tactics and a failure to engage in a dialogue with those whom he previously claimed to be working with in a “bi-partisan” fashion.
The job description and constitutional responsibilities of New Jersey’s Governor may make him the most powerful State chief executive in the country. Christie has line-item veto power, enabling him to extract portions of any bill that is submitted to him and signing it without returning it to the legislature. Thus, he can mold and re-direct the intent of a bill, as well as adjust the funding that is associated with it.Sweeney, Sheila Oliver, and other Democratic leaders have been labeled “Christie Democrats” by their colleagues after cooperating on the pensions and health benefits reform package and now suddenly find themselves frozen out by Christie, as well. Sweeney, in particular, is angry that he was not given a seat at the table when the decisions were made regarding line-item cuts in the State budget.
Smith, State Senator Wynona Lipman, Assembyman Gary Schaer, and Sweeney have voiced vigorous concerns about the administration’s policy on funding for programs for the sick, elderly, people with disabilities, women, and people of color.
A strong argument that is being presented against the governor is his failure to support the famous “Millionaires Tax.” Democrats and social activists indicate that the administration’s policies support the wealthy at the expense of the poor and downtrodden.
New Jersey will be an ever-increasingly difficult place to live for people of modest means. Those with special needs will receive less support than ever. It has been reported that our public colleges are among the most expensive in the country, eliminating the opportunity of many working class families to realize the American Dream. Thousands of New Jerseyans who relied on Medicaid will be without health care. Now, those Democrats who took the political risk of supporting many of Christie’s initiatives find themselves frozen out of any dialogue with the governor.