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Grading Gov. Christie’s first year in office

oliverSHEILA082310_optBY SHEILA Y. OLIVER
COMMENTARY

It's been painfully clear throughout Governor Christie's first year in office that we are living in two very distinct and separate New Jerseys.

In Chris Christie's New Jersey, he thinks he can say ‘buck up and deal with my painful budget cuts' and working and middle class families will simply fall in line without missing a beat.

In the other New Jersey — the reality the rest of us live in — families are paying more for less and systematically being forced out of their way of life.

Yet, in his annual State of the State Address this week, the Governor touted what he perceives to be a record of progress and vowed more of the same.

Let's take a look at what the Governor's past year has meant for those living in the real New Jersey.

With the stroke of his harsh veto pen, thousands of working class women lost access to critical healthcare.

Seniors and the disabled on fixed incomes have had their property tax rebates taken away and the working poor have seen their Earned Income Tax Credit cut. Vital after-school programs have been slashed, while transit fares have been hiked by near record levels.

Meanwhile the state's wealthiest residents received a tax break.

All of this amounts to an attack on the working poor and the middle class.

At the same time, more people are unemployed now then before the Governor took office and yet he mentioned nary a word in his address about job creation and economic stimulation. In fact, based on recent interviews, the Governor seems content with the fact that roughly 400,000 residents are still struggling every day to find a job.

Between the Race to the Top and charter school grant funding debacles, the firing of education commissioner Bret Schundler, the failure to fill the position of Secretary of Higher Education and his continued vilification of teachers, one can only conclude that education was not a priority for the Governor in year one either.

Furthermore, the state is facing at least another $10 billion budget deficit and the Governor is planning to borrow without voter approval to fund New Jersey's transportation needs, a move he called "unconscionable" when he was running for office.

Meanwhile, property taxes are going up all over the state as the effects of the Governor's record cuts in state aid play out. The result has been reduced services, and widespread police, firefighter and teacher layoffs.

Eventually we must ask ourselves: when does fiscal prudence trump the public's safety and well being?

In prosperous times, the message "more of the same" might be well received by folks. In today's climate, that is the last thing residents of the Garden State need to hear.

Everyone knows the problems facing our state. What New Jersey needs is leadership that will make the tough decisions, not short-sighted ones — such as skipping pension payments — that only worsen our problems over time.

It's time to stop vilifying teachers and properly fund education in the upcoming budget, work cooperatively to obtain federal dollars and appoint a Secretary of Higher Education.

It's time to reexamine our priorities and learn to do more with less, without crushing those who already have less.

It's time to focus on the number one issue facing our state and the country as a whole — the economy.

This week the Legislature finished passing a package of roughly 30 bills designed to create real and lasting jobs and stimulate long-term economic growth. The fate of New Jerseyans everywhere is now in the Governor's hands.

If Governor Christie truly cares about turning New Jersey around, he will sign this package into law and he will do it quickly. We are now on year two of the Christie agenda and residents cannot afford to wait any longer.

If the Governor truly meant what he said in his address this week about working together in a bipartisan fashion, then signing these bills into law is the best way to live up to that promise for the greater good of our state.

Sheila Y. Oliver, of East Orange, is Speaker of the General Assembly.

GM

 
Comments (6)
6 Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:52
About Time
That's good, point out all the bad things he's done and freebies he's taken away from your supporters - real easy.
"Everyone knows the problems facing our state. What New Jersey needs is leadership that will make the tough decisions, not short-sighted ones — such as skipping pension payments — that only worsen our problems over time."
How many years has the current legislature been making the problems worse and worse, as they bicker over who's to blame for the problem and who to tax to fix it - since they don't know how to cut spending??

How about instead you do your job and actually pass and run a balanced budget. It's about time someone stood up and said enough is enough.
5 Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:20
Jim used to live in NJ
Yeah go on with your mantra, and drive those who make higher incomes and create jobs out of your state. Continues to happen in California.
You libs know no other way!
4 Monday, 17 January 2011 14:09
Maestro
Say it like a mantra...tax the rich....say it to whoever will listen. Point out to anyone who will listen the incredible and widening discrepancy between rich and poor, in NJ and in the USA. When people long for 'the good old days', remind them the 'gap' wasn't nearly as large, unions were stronger, and the poor/middle class were smart enough to stick up for themselves. These days, middle class people can't wait to stand up for the rich.
Anyway, back to the mantra...'tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich.....
3 Sunday, 16 January 2011 18:44
Jim used to live in NJ
Typical politician. Keep spending until there is no more money, even to borrow. Stop taking "support" from the unions, ratchet down their pensions, get rid of redundant bureaucracies (such as more levels of Educators). Stop spending so much on 'education' (translation: administrative bureaucracy of education) so that more can be put into the classrooms. Do not take more from taxpayers to do so!
I mistakenly thought things might be different once having moved out of NJ, but not so! You politicians are all crazy and greedy, and beholden to unions,especially in California.
2 Saturday, 15 January 2011 21:58
Otbricki
The state is looking at the STARK REALITY of a 10 billion budget shortfall plus an unfunded pension liability of 50 billion. There isn't any pain-free way to deal with this. It would be nice if you could just ignore these issues but sadly that isn't the way things work. Decades of financial recklessness have come home to roost.
1 Saturday, 15 January 2011 00:34
MadInNJ
Given her complete intransigence on most major issues that would benefit taxpayers - F

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