I don't like Governor Jon Corzine's budget proposal any more than you do, especially because I get whacked on many levels. First, I am not going to get a rebate check because the governor says that anyone earning over $75,000 is out. Further, what was the point of working to purchase a home and pay ridiculous property taxes if now the governor says I can't deduct them on my state income taxes next year? (That is, of course, unless I were a senior or disabled.)
The governor also had the gall to say that if you earned over $500,000 that you will get hit by paying more in state income taxes. And get this. The governor actually had the nerve to say; "We would have preferred not to have to cut funding for the arts and humanities, but we chose, in this financial emergency, not to close hospitals or eliminate senior prescription drug assistance."
As for state workers, the governor proposed that state workers take 12 days off next fiscal year without getting paid. That is an 8 percent salary reduction added to the fact that the governor proposed freezing salaries of state workers.
Those are just a few of the more controversial items in the governor's $28.9 billion spending plan. The governor says he would rather do none of these things. Call me naïve, but I believe him. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Jon Corzine is clearly not the most articulate or charismatic politician, but he is the first governor in my lifetime that had the guts to actually try to reduce state spending and pay as you go.
It may go against every one of Corzine's liberal instincts to cut government programs and antagonize state workers, but he is doing it anyway. He is trying to limit the fiscal gimmicks and not borrow on top of all the borrowing that has been done before him. But like I said, there is not much I really like about Jon Corzine's proposed budget.
But criticizing is easy. Solutions are hard. Just ask the Republicans who pile on Corzine because they continue to smell blood as many voters turn against him. According to state Senator Kevin O'Toole (R-Essex); "Higher taxes, fewer jobs, diminishing opportunity and an increasingly unaffordable cost of living…Governor Corzine has abandoned the middle-class taxpayer." O'Toole is a smart state Senator. I've known him for years, but his comments criticizing the governor's plan are typical, predictable and not especially helpful.
As for Chris Christie, the likely GOP gubernatorial candidate who has a real shot at becoming our next governor, he, too, blasted Corzine's spending plan. I asked Christie in a live call-in this week if he would have limited the Homestead Rebate to people earning under $75,000. Christie's artful response was that he would never have gotten us in this fiscal mess in the first place. However, when I pressed him as to whether he, if faced with our economic crisis, would have limited the rebates for people over $75,000, Christie candidly said, "no." But here's the catch. We all need to know exactly what Chris Christie, Kevin O'Toole, irate home owners, peeved mayors, arts group leaders (whose funding was cut by the state), WOULD cut.
It is so easy to be angry at Jon Corzine and to blame him for all of our fiscal problems. And yes, he has contributed to it on some level, solely because he has been governor for over three years. But to ignore that there is a worldwide, national, as well as regional recession, the likes of which most of us have never seen in our lifetimes, is absurd and disingenuous.
I've asked this question before and I am going to ask it again. Given the state's dire fiscal situation and that we are many billions of dollars in the hole, what exactly DO you propose gets cut in state government? Write to me at email@example.com and tell me if YOU were governor exactly what you would cut. Don't write to me and tell me Governor Corzine is a bum and his plan is garbage. That won't even begin to close the massive fiscal hole New Jersey faces. Think about it. When it comes to your own family budget, when was the last time calling each other names, pointing fingers or blaming your spouse ever got the bills paid? It doesn't work at home and it won't work in the statehouse. So either put up or shut up. Get busy and write that e-mail because actions always do speak louder than words.