Sunday, July 4, 2010

PS427: New Jersey Budget, Christie vs Dems

The New Jersey budget faced an $11 billion shortfall. Newly elected governor Chris Christie drew attention by taking on state employee unions, especially teachers, and pushed throw a budget with major cuts, numerous fee increases, and elimination of tax-rebates. Republicans are looking at Christie as a model for budget cutting while maintaining popular support. Dems are concerned.

This is a striking contrast with the situation in Illinois where little progress seems to be at hand in dealing with state bills that can't be paid. Or in California which as of today (July 4) still lacks a state budget.

Here are a series of excellent articles covering the NJ budget process and the current "near-deal" on limiting property tax increases, which may or may not be a done deal (see reservations by the assembly speaker.)

This is a GREAT overview of the entire budget process and negotiations. Bravo to reporters Claire Heininger and Josh Margolin for an article that covers the complexity so well.

Here is the article on the budget passing. Note the chart on where the money comes from and where it goes. I wish it were a little more detailed, especially on what state agencies spend what but otherwise useful information.

This is a piece that puts Christie's budget in the perspective of what previous governors did to bring the state to its current situation.

And here is where the property tax issue stands today, with an agreement in the senate and some uncertainty in the assembly.

Not all are happy, and here is a piece on groups opposing the budget deal.

Some earlier coverage in the run-up to the budget include:

State worker protests. (Note the likely cuts to state worker benefits in Wisconsin as well. Pensions and benefits are inviting targets. (Why?)  And not just for Reps. Gov. Doyle recommended more or less the same increase in state worker contributions to retirement funds last year that GOPer Scott Walker now supports.)

Universities and colleges take $173M in cuts, plan tuition hikes.  In what ways is that a good thing and a bad thing? Discuss.

Christie fighting with teachers unions.

Oh my! Christie urges towns to reject school budgets without a wage freeze!

Subsequently, 53% of such budgets are rejected. Quite an impressive show of support for the Governor's position. Quite a lack of success for the teachers unions.

Here is a comical attempt to spin the results in favor of the teachers unions.

And here is a good non-partisan overview of Christie's conflict with the teachers and the subsequent votes.

Wow. I could go on and on. The Newark Star Ledger deserves huge praise for their detailed coverage and for a page offering the entire chronology. I wish Wisconsin papers would follow their lead in coverage and organization of that coverage on their web pages. This is a model of good work.

Here is the Star-Ledger's overview page.

Read JUST THE HEADLINES on the overview page. Read from bottom to top so you see it in chronological order. Make note of the issues, areas of cuts and revenue increases, and ESPECIALLY how each interest group howls in protest when their ox is gored. Note also in the budget article above how Republican legislators are very troubled about voting for cuts to THEIR suburban school districts. Concern for YOUR ox is bi-partisan indeed.

This is textbook stuff about budget making. The most amazing part is how Christie marshaled the political skill to get the budget through the legislature, where Democrats control both houses, and how he had to struggle to maintain GOP unanimity of support for his plan.

I don't have a dog in this fight. There are good arguments on both sides of budget debates. But as just plain fascinating politics, this case in New Jersey deserves to be widely studied.


  1. Scott AbromowitzJuly 4, 2010 at 10:05 PM

    New Jersey politics are on track to becoming quite the piece of entertainment. I am amazed at the cunning skills Governor Christie has at being able to thwart not only the powerful teacher's union, but also Democrats ability to deny the passage of his budget. The fact that it is a split Congress/Executive powers shows how capable of a leader, in regards to passing a budget he is. Though, I wonder what is going to happen to the University system in New Jersey. Will the schools be able to offer more financial aid to help those who cannot afford the increase in tuition. I hope this does not deter people from going to schools. As the United Negro College Fund states, A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste." I am glad the state government has been able to compromise on a modest 2% tax increase. I wish the federal government could learn a thing or two in regards to bi-partisan cooperation that has happened in New Jersey. Though, I wonder what the effects of budget cuts to schools will have to student to teacher ratio. The state appears to be on the right way at removing wasteful spending, though it still needs work. The increase of 10 dollars for civic examination appears to be only rhetoric since 300,000 is meaningless in regards to the billions in deficit spending.

  2. Scott AbromowitzJuly 4, 2010 at 10:09 PM

    This is true tog and pull politics, which makes me glad to seem. As stated here,, the Governor is quite a capable leader.

  3. In relation to the issue of University cuts it seems to be an easy area to make budget changes in because people almost expect a tuition increase from year to year. Yet, I believe it has the most detrimental effects. It's implausible to believe that these cuts and raises in tuition won't deter at least some individuals from seeking higher education. Even if there is financial ad for the lower class the middle class will go without. By having those individuals of the middle class carry most of the burden will the student base not face some quality erosion? While the cuts help the economy now, de-funding higher education can jeopardize economic recovery in the long term. Education is already affected even in small towns in Wisconsin, such as Oshkosh, where the arts programs are being cut and electives narrowed because of the lack of funding. Essentially making future generation's educational experience less well rounded.

  4. Obviously Governor Christie is going to catch a lot of flack for all the proposed cuts. As I've said in the past, in order to mend budget defecits you're going to have to step on a lot of toes. Unfortunately, the budget passing probably won't help Christie personally in the long run, since many unemployed people will vote against him.

    My main concern with the New Jersey budget cuts comes from the unemployment fund cuts, especially when many of the other proposed budget slashing measures will result in many more people seeking unemployment aid. The idea of furloughs and salary reduction seems much more appetizing to me.

    Consolodating is also a key to budget-cutting success. I found the college-absorption as an interesting method of cutting jobs and saving money. Steps like that could be take right here in Madison with MATC and UW-Madison. Salary freezes also seem like a legitimate, albeit controversial, solution.

    In most cases I am in complete support of taxing transportation. Along with other seemingly necessary daily routines, transportation and parking are easy targets for states to make up moeny. If you're unwilling to bike and have to burden the city with emissions or funding for public transportation, then you should have to pay more money.

    Finally, the prospect of increasing lottery revenue is particularly intriguing to me. In a state notorious for gambling, why not introduce more slot machines and video gambling stations? It just makes fiscal sense to increase revenue for such a low cost to the state.

  5. The action in New Jersey is intriguing and puzzling. I'm impressed with Governor Christie's ability to get the budget passed through a Democrat controlled legislature. As a Republican governor, Christie is able to act out his decisions even though he knows that he will be making a lot of people upset. I agree that you may need to step on a lot of toes in order to do what may be best for the state.

    It is also interesting that the major areas for cuts and increased spending when looking at the line of New Jersey governors were property taxes and education. It seems as though Governor Christie is a capable leader and understands that nothing is going to change unless you do something about it and Christie is a man of action. It takes a lot of boldness to be able to act out the way he is, especially as a new leader.

    The bi-partisan cooperation and new budget plan set good examples for states like Illinois who are letting their economy drown in their inaction.

  6. In many ways I was very impressed with Christie’s hard line and dedication to stopping the deficit. I think it’s much easier said than done, and he’s clearly doing it. He also is taking a lot of the heat for the blunt budget cuts, including those to universities and education. His fight with the teachers union has brought national attention to this story and is clearly a delicate issue. However, as Christie mentioned in one of the videos, there was not a lot of options left on either the revenue or the spending side of things. Rather than push the deficits further down and let someone else deal with the problem, I respect Governor Christie for attacking the problem head on. We read earlier about the problems Illinois has with paying their bills and one of the reasons is that no one will take a stand and the criticism like governor Christie. He was preceded by big spenders and now he is making it better for the governor of the future and I think this is a great thing. Obviously, his choice of where he decides to stop spending are always going to be controversial and debatable. Freezing teacher’s salary might not be the answer, but as Christie said, there aren’t a lot of options left.


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