So the Governor is away. He left after signing a budget and taking out the red pen to exercise his line item veto power. Given that the budget is nearly $35 Billion a few hundred million in vetoes don’t exactly make the state’s financial situation any better, but it’s a start.
Too often politicians are looking for a huge statement, a grand headline, a game-changing move. And more often than not the big move is blocked and the voters and taxpayers are left holding the bag. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker, elected in 2010 with a new Republican majority in both houses, successfully made that move changing the way pensions and benefits for state workers and teachers. That state went from a $3.6 billion deficit to a $900 million surplus. As you know, Governor Christie has had to deal with both houses of the NJ legislators solidly under Democratic control. Given the ineptitude of the GOP opposition in this state, that’s likely to be the case for some time.
So focus on the small stuff. I applaud the Governor for striking out $300 million in spending. But he’s got to do more. How about tabling the $98 million allocated for open space? At least for one more year..maybe until we address the infrastructure concerning our roads, bridges and drinking water.
Then there’s the idea of changing a decades old deal with the state of PA which allows for workers to pay income taxes in their home state instead of where they work. The tax rates in Jersey are three times higher than in PA so the clear winners here are those that work in the Garden State and have chosen to relocate to PA. How many high paying executives moved to Bucks County PA to enjoy a 3% tax instead of the 9% in Jersey.
What I’d rather see is NJ dramatically reduce our income tax rate in order to keep people in NJ. That of course will take an act of the legislature and to this point they only see a path of raising taxes. So the Governor has the power to drop the deal and potentially infuse NJ with $180 million in new revenue. For those lawmakers uncomfortable with this I’d ask them one question, what $180 million are you willing to cut out of the budget in order to keep the deal in place?
Eliminate open space funding for this year ($98 million), eliminate the additional legislative office funds ($5 million), together that save $103 million. Add to that the $300 million in line item veto money plus the new revenue (estimated $180 million) and the Governor has the power to impact the budget directly to the tune of nearly $600 million dollars.
It’s up to you Governor. But I’d say that it’s a start. I’m betting we can find another $600 million in the budget that can be prioritized out. The professional politicians will tell you that the problem is much more complicated than this. No it’s not. And the Governor with his line item veto action proved it. He simply didn’t go far enough.