This week’s Report Card

Governor Christopher Christie tapped state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) as New Jersey’s top official on the Port Authority, opening up a potentially competitive race for Baroni’s seat in November. 

The pension reforms shepherded by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) passed committee. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee sent Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff’s nomination to the full senate, with one no vote.

And everyone wished U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) well after he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Gov. Christopher J. Christie

Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics
Grade: B

Comment: “Woops!  In the end, he actually DOES need the Legislature to approve his budget cuts for this year.  So when does he start playing nice?”

Peter Woolley, director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll
Grade: A

Comment: “The governor apparently took to heart the headlines in the New York Post in
1990 intended for David Dinkins. ‘Do Something!’  He’s doing it.”

Brigid Harrison, professor of political science at Montclair State University
Grade: B+

Comment: “Gov. Christie continues to turn Trenton (and the rest of the state) upside down. Even his political opponents are beginning to acknowledge that the state is in such a crisis that many of his measures are necessary. He gets high marks for giving municipalities the “heads up” that they should plan to slash school budgets by 15%, and perhaps pension reform will enable districts to do this with a bit more financial wiggle room. Still problematic is Christie’s evolving autocratic persona: this week he was forced to acknowledge that he actually needs the legislature to move frozen allocations into general revenue. He will need them for a lot more in the months and years to come. The window of executive-legislative cooperation is barely open, and in the long term, it would serve his administration well to have some legislators on board.”

Senate Democrats

Woolley
Grade: A

Comment: Consider it a good week when pension reforms are reported out of committee (unless it’s your golden goose that’s being cooked).

Dworkin

Grade: B

Comment: “Pension reform is coming and Senate President Sweeney is making sure that his caucus will not be out-flanked by the Governor on this issue.  But with redistricting and legislative elections less than two years away, are supporters setting themselves up for aggressive primaries?”

Harrison
Grade: B+

Comment: “Sweeney once again becomes relevant and also scores points for pension reform. But he and all Democrats need to tread carefully in this budget process — they must walk a fine political tightrope, recognizing that the electorate has demanded real reform. They cannot be obstructionist. But being legislators, they also will be looking ahead to their own reelection bids and the parochial concerns of their districts (which is partly how we got in this mess). Sweeney needs to lead his chamber in finding that balance, and the next few weeks are a crucial time. He was helped this week by Sen. Jim Whelan, a school teacher and NJEA member, who eloquently articulated the problems with the state’s pension system while advocating for the reforms, helping members of his chamber stand up to the unions.”

Assembly Democrats

Woolley:
Grade: I (incomplete)

Comment: Everyone in the Assembly was certainly busy but the nature of legislators and legislatures is to posture, delay, criticize, and pick the low-hanging fruit.  Let’s wait to see what they hand in.

Dworkin
Grade: C

Comment: “Hearings about the pain of budget cuts are all nice and good, but will the general public’s opinion really shift because of them?  Or are they just preaching to the choir?”

Harrison

Grade: B

Comment: “In the wake of Christie’s pronouncements, Oliver announces public hearings on the budget, which many view an irrelevant sidebar to the process. In the meantime, Christie’s admission that he needs legislative approval to enact his mid-year budget freezes is a process that Democrats in the Assembly should have known was their purview. They — Oliver — should have called Christie to task on it after his joint legislative address. Because of  inexperience, they didn’t and Christie was able to spin this small loss of face on his own terms. Opportunity lost.”

This week’s Report Card