TRENTON – Street peoplehelp in an election year, and Gov. Jon Corzine may have a few more of them in the form of those in the political establishment arguably most naturally resistant to the Wall Street outsider who leapfrogged over all of them to become governor: mayors.
Ticked last year when Gov. Jon Corzine made substantial cuts tostate aid for muncipalities, big city and suburban Democratic Party execs warmed to the governor’s plan this year to cut municipal aid by less than 2%, even as he slashed 850 line items to repair a long-term budget gap of $7 billion.
“As a mayor, I’m not happy with any reduction in state aid but I know what the governor and treasurer went through to prepare this budget,” said Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, a former state treasurer. “At one point, we were talking about a reduction of 15%.
McCormac said he would eat the cuts if it allowed the governor to protect education and health care.
“We get $30 million in state aid, and 2% amounts to $500,000,” said McCormac. “That’s better than getting cut by $4 million.”
Locked in his own reelection battle this year, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said Corzine helped himself politically today with his proposal for a $29.8 billion budget, particularly in the urbs.
“We’re in the new Great Depression and cuts have to be made, we’re all losing revenues,” said Healy, who complained loudly last year about losing state aid.
“His budget last year was tougher on cities than this year,” said Healy. “I give the governor credit. He cut spending by a billion. You’d almost have to call that ‘monumental.’ He’s cut it down to even less than what it was when he came into office.”
Also in a reelection bid and another Corzine critic who even contemplated challenging the governor himself, Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello likewise praised Corzine.
“My position is the entire country is stressed,” said Cresitello, whose town last year received $3.7 million in aid. “There are only four states in the union that don’t have budget deficits. There’s no revenue. Would I prefer normal aid? Yes. But I’m prepared to work with state government.”
Edison Mayor Jun Choi called the substance of Corzine’s budget “sobering news.”
“But in difficult economic times, all of us need to downsize and do more with less,” said Choi, whose town received $23 million in aid last year.
Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik, a critic of the Corzine administration’s inaction on finding an alternative to the current Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) plan, also fell in line.
“I haven’t gotten the final state aid numbers, but I’m doing in my municipality what the governor just did in the state,” Hornik said. “He is operating in a difficult environment budget, and presenting a budget that was less than it was in 2006. I’ve got to give him credit.”