Earlier this week, Governor Chris Christie delivered what was one of the best, most honest budget addresses that I’ve ever heard a New Jersey Governor deliver to the state legislature and the citizenry. To honor the courage that it takes for a man to stand up in front of the most vicious state in the nation and tell people the truth, I thought I would put some selected quotes from his address on this blog along with some of my comments.
In recent years, we have allowed the problem to become bigger through a series of one-time gimmicks that have worsened our situation. This year, for example, some state employees will be given an 11% salary increase, at a cost of $300 million to the taxpayers, while many New Jerseyans are lucky to even have a job. Incredible.
Are you serious? How can any public employee justify an 11% salary increase when people are losing jobs in the private sector left and right? This is ridiculous. This is the type of public excesses that drove Jon “Money Bags” Corzine out of office and brought in a no-nonsense reformer like Chris Christie. An 11% salary increase in the midst of an economic mess? Talk about certain public employees being out of step with the economy…
$700 million in one-time revenues came in from granting amnesty to tax cheats in another gimmick that was used to paper over problems. As usual, our government spent it all in one year, and built that much more spending into the budget for this coming year, with no way to pay for it now or in the future. So too were federal stimulus funds for education irresponsibly spent all in one year — and then simply added into the budget, with no way to pay for it this year.
Some people are getting mad at Chris Christie for his strong budget address (not this voter, but others out there). Where is the outrage at the previous administrations (both Republican and Democrat) that have had these gigantic influxes of cash and doled the funds out without any long term planning? How many intelligent people get a raise at work or a bonus check and have their first thought immediately be, “How can I spend all of this money right away?!” One billion stimulus dollars spent for educational purposes by Jon Corzine as he tried to buy the election last year. Absolutely disgraceful. I wish he could be sued for his misuse of public (i.e. OUR) funds.
Over the course of two decades, time and again the State has borrowed to pay its every day bills. You wouldn’t do that in your own home, and we shouldn’t do that with your tax dollars. The result is overwhelming. Outstanding direct debt has ballooned from $3.9 billion in 1989 to $33.9 billion last year. And total debt, including all obligations, has tripled from $17 billion to over $51 billion, just since 2002. Our debt is equal to an obligation of $4,100 for each and every man, woman, and child in this state 130% higher than in 2002.
Damn right we wouldn’t do it in our own homes, but if you DID do that in your own home, you might find yourself on your ass with no roof over your head. When you spend money like an idiot, bad things happen. At least Chris Christie has the political fortitude to say that in public and to add that he intends to make the system right. And I don’t know about you folks, but adding $30 billion in direct state debt over a 21 year period is absolutely unacceptable, damn it.
That is bad enough, but as you know, more than half of what the State spends every year is sent to local governments, in the form of aid for municipal government and school districts. And local government has exercised even less control. Spending at the local government level has risen 69% since 2001.
How many times have I railed away on this blog about the need to remove the corruption at the local level? Enough is enough of people pocketing a few thousand here and a few thousand there. Enough is enough with people getting hired who are unqualified or are politically associated or blood related to local politicians. Enough is enough with property taxes increasing to maintain a bloated local school system that doles out an unbelievable amount of cash to unnecessary school administrators (take a look at what goes on in Camden). Enough is enough already, damn it.
Even now, in the depths of a great economic crisis, local governments and school boards can’t hold back on the pressure that comes from the public sector unions. What is the proof? While New Jersey’s private sector lost 121,000 jobs just in 2009, New Jersey’s local governments added 11,300 new municipal and school employees. 11,300 new government employees paid for by your taxes just this last year. 11,300 new employees added while you are struggling to keep your job and pay the bills. We must give the voters the tools to stop the madness and stop it this year.
If reading that last paragraph doesn’t piss you off, then you must not really give a shit about what’s going on in our state. And I made that last line bold to make a point that most citizens don’t understand. The Governor is NOT the one who can destroy the corruption at the local level – the corruption that might exist in your hometown or in a local school board. YOU ARE THE ONES WHO NEED TO BUST THAT CORRUPTION! That’s it! That’s the key! The Governor is going to give you the tools to get it done, but the action has to come from you! In other words, the most the Governor can do to actually make the policy changes that are necessary at the local level is advocate on our behalf and he’s doing that day in and day out. It is up to US, at citizens of our local municipalities, to make sure that our elected officials do what is right. And if you don’t have the guts to stand up and make your local elected officials do what is right, then you deserve whatever you get.
We have worked to ensure that no school district in New Jersey will face a reduction in aid that is greater than 5% of their school budget– so school districts will face a budget cut that is 4% less than the cut in state spending as a whole. During a crisis worsened by the election year foolishness of our predecessors, we keep school aid cuts at less than state spending cuts.
Make no bones about it, folks – Governor Christie is doing the right thing here. If anyone can’t live within a budget that, in this economy, has revenue reduced by 4% – 5%, then they are living too far outside of their means. No one is going after teachers – teachers are awesome and they do a job that is truly a service to the public good. No one denies that at all. However, do you really need all of the excess administrators making six figure salaries at the district level? Of course not. I go on Facebook and I see all of my young friends who are teachers that are bashing Christie because they are probably going to lose their jobs and I have three immediate thoughts:
First, much of the grammar and spelling in these Facebook updates are horrendous (let alone crude) and I don’t want New Jersey’s kids learning from these morons (who I really all love, but if you can’t spell “Governor” or if you attack Christie for being fat, then you shouldn’t be a teacher, period).
Second, most of the stuff I’m reading in their Facebook updates are nothing more than rehashed propaganda and lies from the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA aka the “Teacher’s Union”). This tells me that my younger friends are brainwashed.
Third and finally, these folks are misdirecting their anger. Getting angry at Chris Christie is the dumb man’s argument. Think of a moron saying, “He going to cut funding and, uhhh, he then cut my salary and, ummm, I no job.” Idiots. You want to get mad at someone? You want to get angry at someone? Go get your school district’s budget and find out where money is being wasted. Teachers are certainly NOT wasting money. But how many school districts have three and four Assistant Principals and Vice Principals? How many Board Secretary subordinates are there making $5,000 here or $10,000 there? If you serve on a school board, are you not inherently accepting a job that is a volunteer position? Why do some school board members get stipends?
You want to get mad at someone and you want to direct your anger somewhere? Direct that anger towards the fat cats that might exist in your own districts. Direct that anger toward the few school districts in this state that exist, but have no actual schools in their super small towns (for the rest of the nation reading this entry, yes – we have that in New Jersey).
I LOVE when citizens get fired up over their government, but don’t be ignorant about your anger. Direct your anger to the right place – to the local and county-level excesses that the Governor cannot single-handedly change because he’s not a king (or at least think he is a king like President Obama does).
The leaders of the union who represent these teachers, however, have used their political muscle to set up two classes of citizens in New Jersey: those who enjoy rich public benefits and those who pay for them. That has created a system that cannot be sustained a system fueled by mandatory dues of more than $700 a year taken out of every one of the nearly 200,000 teachers’ paychecks.
Political muscle fueled by intimidation tactics, political bullying and smears of public officials who dare to disagree. This conduct has set up an unfair system. Is it fair to have any public employees getting 4-5% salary increases every year, even when inflation is zero %, paid for by citizens struggling to survive? It is fair to have New Jersey taxpayers foot the bill for 100% of the health insurance costs of teachers and their families from the day they are hired until the day they die? Is it fair that teachers have a better, richer health plan than even state workers and pay absolutely nothing for it?
I believe rank and file teachers know this is not fair and that we can no longer afford to burden our taxpayers with these costs and runaway taxes. The union bosses will tell you, as they always have each time their empire is threatened, that they are protecting our children. This tired song has grown old and inaccurate. Is the way our children learn affected by whether the union gets free family health insurance for life for its members? Does a child learn more if the union gets 5% taxpayer funded raises every year for its members? This is nonsensical and self-serving and we all know it.
You tell ’em, Governor Christie! Enough is enough with this absolute abomination of a system! Get ’em, Christie! This is why we voted you into office!
So I ask those of you in the legislature, and all of the citizens of our state, to join me — in pitching in, in working together — not only to share in the sacrifices we must make today, but in forging the path to a better tomorrow. The journey starts today, and I know it will be worth the effort.
I’m with this Governor. We need these reforms NOW (we actually needed them a decade ago, but we have to make the changes now to get the ball rolling). Battling against the entrenched education interests is the first step. Let’s get this state going in the right direction again so we can afford tomorrow!