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.