Saturday, July 08, 2006

State Budget - PoliticsNJ - Adubato: Corzine a statesman

Published in PoliticsNJ, June 30, 2006

David P. Rebovich Column

Corzine is a "Statesman" in the budget battles


Here we are at the 11th hour. Actually, its a lot closer to the 12th hour. I filed this column mid-afternoon on June 30th. We're supposed to have a budget in place right now--the state constitution says so. If fact, the state is not supposed to spend money after July 1st if there is no budget. But far be it to let a little thing like a constitution get in the way of all the absurd, childish political games being played in the state house. Here's how I see it: Jon Corzine was elected as the state's Chief Executive to return some fiscal sanity to the state government. He wasn't elected because he's a great politician or an extraordinary orator. He's no back-slapper or glad-hander like Jim McGreevey. And frankly he doesn't know the ins and outs of the statehouse the way Former Governor and current Senate President Dick Codey did.

However, here's what I've seen from Jon Corzine so far; he's honest, smart, and he is really trying to do the right thing with the state budget. He's trying to tell the rest of us what he perceives to be the truth about how much money is coming in and how much is going out. He's trying to match expenditures to revenues and be a responsible Chief Executive, even if you disagree with his call to raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 cents on a dollar.

For this, he has been abandoned by a group of Assembly Democrats whose only concern seems to be not doing anything that might jeopardize their legislative control of the lower house. This group of Assembly Democrats are convinced that if they support Corzine on the sales tax hike (which would bring in approximately $1.2 billion of much needed revenue) they will risk voter wrath in the next election. First, I'm not buying it. Second, last time I checked, legislators are sent to Trenton to do the state's business in a responsible and prudent fashion, even if it requires that they explain what they've done to constituents, none of whom want their taxes raised. Because of this obsessive fear of a voter backlash, Assembly Democrats, lead by speaker Joe Roberts, have thrown the state government into totally unnecessary chaos.

Joe Roberts is normally a thoughtful and responsible legislator. But I couldn't disagree more with him and the Assembly Democrats who have followed his lead by drawing a line in the sand and telling Governor Corzine they will never support a budget that includes a sales tax hike. To his credit, Governor Corzine has held firm to his convictions. He believes, rightly so, that even if a sales tax hike is unpopular, it is the only way to responsibly balance this budget. He proposed this budget over 100 days ago. He told legislators that if they disagreed, they should come up with alternatives to bring in much needed revenue. Assembly Democrats did nothing until just a few days ago when they put forth a flimsy budget proposal that relies on one-shot revenues and gimmicks.

These are the kinds of fiscal actions that have caused such insanity in Trenton for too long. Corzine said "enough is enough." No more gimmicks. No more one-shots. He said revenues must match expenditures. What a radical idea in a state house filled with politicians who have gotten away with murder for too long by borrowing against the future, playing dangerous games to artificially balance the budget. In my book, Jon Corzine is far from perfect. But he is the most responsible and decent elected governor New Jersey has had in a long time.

I don't know if the government is going to shut down in the next few days. Obviously I hope it doesn't. But it would be a crime if such a shut down was blamed on Corzine for taking a principal and responsible position, which Assembly Democrats refuse to support. No matter how this turns out, all of us should feel proud that Corzine is the state Chief Executive, even if the last few weeks have been uncomfortable, uneasy, and sometimes chaotic. In many ways, Jon Corzine has acted like a statesman, which is unheard of in the State's house. Maybe that's what is making members of his own party so uncomfortable.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.