New Jersey's Conservative Renaissance
It was quite a sight. The Republican Governor of New Jersey strode into the cavernous legislative chamber in the Trenton statehouse, filled mostly with Democrats, and proceeded to receive one round of applause after another.
Chris Christie is rotund in a way that suggests you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark ally. Before becoming Governor in 2011, as the U.S. District Attorney he had amassed an impressive record of putting bribe-taking legislators in jail, along with a long list of other criminals.
Moreover, he arrived on the scene to put an end to former Governor Jon Corzine’s fiscal destruction of the State; a feat he accomplished with MF Global, the investment firm that made headlines when it collapsed with unaccounted billions in “lost” customer funds.
New Jerseyans were sick of governors who made promises they did not keep. From 1994 to 2001, Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, had held the office until resigning to become President Bush’s director of the Environmental Protection Agency. She was quickly fired from the post.
She was followed by a series of interim governors until James E. McGreevey was elected in 2002. McGreevey, a Democrat, discovered he was a homosexual after his appointment of a boyfriend to a high paying state job was exposed. He resigned, was replaced by a congenial old “pol”, Richard Codey from 2004 to 2006, when Corzine was elected.
In the course of all this, New Jersey, thanks to massive mismanagement became a State famed for having the highest tax rates in the nation. People and businesses had began to flee, reducing its tax base. By fiscal year 2011, the State had a record deficit of $11 billion.
Gov. Christie literally taught a largely Democrat legislature conservative principles. He held town halls all over the State and became famous for his confrontational style. YouTube videos of his slap-downs were viewed by millions of people. They liked what they saw.
In his State of the State speech, delivered on Tuesday, January 17, you would think he was addressing a Republican legislature. He was interrupted with applause and got a standing ovation at the end of it.
“We had spent too much as a State. We had lived beyond our means. And, by trying to tax our way out of it, previous governors and legislators had left New Jersey in 50th place—dead last among the States—in the total tax burden it placed on our citizens. We had the highest tax rate in the nation, the highest unemployment rate in a quarter century, and the largest budget deficit per person of any State in the Union.”
How blunt is that? Little wonder he was talked of as a possible candidate for President in 2012. Gov. Christie decided to finish his first term and has since become a vocal supporter for Mitt Romney.
The real miracle was the way he worked with Democrats to turn the State’s fiscal problems around. “We cut 375 programs in that first fiscal year, saved two billion dollars for the taxpayers and brought Jon Corzine’s budget into balance.” Together, they cut spending in every department of State government.
Then, together, they put a cap on property taxes that had risen 70% in the decade that preceded his election. The legislature imposed a 2% cap on property tax increases. They did the same for arbitration awards. “We must never forget that the root cause of rising property taxes is always excessive government spending.”
His speech turned to a variety of changes he wants. He already has the results to justify them. “Since our administration came into office, New Jersey has added over 60,000 new private sector jobs. Remember, in 2009, the State had lost 117,000 jobs.”
Gov. Christie made national news when he proposed reducing the State income tax rates for every New Jerseyean. “In every tax bracket. By 10%, across the board.”
If the next two years are any indication of the last two, New Jersey’s lawmakers will institute education reforms to loosen the grip of its powerful teacher’s union while improving the quality of education and providing a financial option for parents who want to move their children to better performing or private schools.
He proposed mandatory treatment “for every non-violent offender with a drug problem in New Jersey, not just a select few.” This would empty out the jails and prisons. “We will require you to get treatment. Your life has value. Every one of God’s creations can be redeemed. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
Gov. Christie knows what ails America. “Our economy suffocated under the wet blanket of over-taxation, over-spending, over-borrowing and over-regulation.”
To this writer, a lifelong resident, born and bred in New Jersey, it was very impressive to listen to the stark opposite of the policies advocated by previous governors and the President of the United States. It was pure conservatism, presented without apologies because none were needed. The results have already demonstrated that it works.