TRENTON – Maybe he was spinning Bruce Springsteen’s The River in 1981, but The Clash might have provided the most relevant advice for Gov. Chris Christie in his current situation: “If I go there will be trouble; if I stay it will be double.”
The double trouble Christie’s in for: a November election unlikely to shift any power his way, and bipartisan relationships that are beyond frayed from the most recent cross-aisle conquest, pension and benefit reform.
Compounding Christie’s woes with the co-branch in Trenton, moving forward as a future gubernatorial candidate – not a current presidential candidate – could be tricky for the so-far deftly maneuvering governor. Any Democrat who thinks he or she has a chance of challenging Christie in 2013 – state Sens. Steve Sweeney, Barbara Buono, Dick Codey, and Assemblymen Lou Greenwald and John Wisniewski, etc. – will need to fully develop their own mailer-ready resume and not simply aid/oppose the Christie agenda.
That means Dems are going to pound back against the governor’s school and ethics reform initiatives, focusing on jobs and the economy and trying to prove that Christie has ignored the unemployed and the underserved.
The cross-aisle partners who assisted the governor on his property tax and toolkit reforms may be less and less helpful to the governor every day from now until 2013. The election season naturally breaks this handshake, but the tell of things to come may be when the two sides try to restore Transitional Aid to financially tottering municipalities.
Schools to the fore
Christie has been rampant with educational restructuring, a few weeks ago setting – as quietly as could be expected from such a bullish governor – the underpinnings of his teacher tenure and charter program overhauls. He’s rolled out the task forces, pilot programs, and detailed examinations that will be the backbone of his reform measures.
Half of the Legislature is jumping into the discussion again this week; the Senate Education Committee will hear three charter-centric bills. The other half of the lawmakers in the Assembly are drawing out their summer vacations and are expected to stay inactive until after the November ballot battles.
The Democrats, in an attempt to pin the governor down on unemployment, are trotting out another economic growth package – regardless of the fact that the last jobs package they brought to Christie’s feet was, by and large, vetoed by the governor.
Most of the measures that survived, said one GOP legislator, were old Republican ideas from the “Common Sense” job creation and economic stabilization package of 2008.
This time around, Democrats think they may have momentarily captured the will of the masses in addressing the issue. The political pitfall here is that the Dems would only get leftover media attention and drowned-out public credit if the only way they can pass the bills – avoiding another round of vetoes that don’t play well for anyone on glossy mailers – is to give Christie trump cards in ethics and education reform.
Remember the ill-fated budget cut veto override votes posed by Democrats this summer? Well, some of those items may return for another run through the Statehouse. One Democratic insider said there are still several severed budget items that could be given a second opportunity for restoration – like aid for nursing homes and legal services for the poor – as soon as the front office and majority offices re-ignite the conversations about Transitional Aid.
The cash-strapped cities haven’t been awarded the aid yet, but once they are (soon, according to an official) the state will not give them a dime until the Legislature restores the funding – and the restoration won’t be approved by the governor without the 1 percent cut for oversight put back. The standoff has already begun and for Christie, it’s less The River and more The Clash.
Monday, October 10
No events or meetings scheduled
Tuesday, October 11
-N.J. Noise Control Council, Rutgers University, Labor Education Building, 50 Labor Center, Cook College Campus, New Brunswick – 9:30 a.m.
-N.J. Redistricting Commission (two meetings), Robeson Campus Center, Rm. 255-257, Rutgers University-Newark, 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., Newark –
10 a.m.; Assembly Room in Winants Hall, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, 7 College Ave., New Brunswick – 2 p.m.
-Economic Development Authority, 36 W. State St., Trenton – 10 a.m.
-Fish and Game Council, Central Region Office, Assunpink WMA, One Eldridge Road, Robbinsville – 1 p.m.
-Motor Vehicles Commission, MVC HQ Training Room A, eighth floor, east wing, 225 E. State St., Trenton – 2 p.m.
-N.J. Commission on Brain Injury Research, 369 S. Warren St., fifth floor, Trenton – 3 p.m.
–Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd visits HealthCorps Health Fair, Cliffside Park High School, Palisade and Riverview Avenues, school gym – 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 12
–Local Finance Board, 101 S. Broad St., Trenton – 9 a.m.
–Clean Air Council, Thomas Edison State College, 101 W. State St., Trenton – 9:30 a.m.
–Board of Public Utilities, 44 S. Clinton Ave., seventh floor, Trenton – 10 a.m.
–State Legislative Races Election Outlook Briefing Breakfast, N.J. Business and Industry Association, Forsgate Country Club, Monroe Township, N.J. Turnpike Exit 8A – 7:45 a.m.
Thursday, October 13
–Senate Education Committee, Rm. 6, Statehouse Annex, Trenton –
–Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Rm. 4, Statehouse Annex, Trenton
Boards and Commissions – 1 p.m.
–State House Commission, Rm. 3, Statehouse Annex, Trenton – 9 a.m.
–Environmental Infrastructure Trust, 3131 Princeton Pike, Office Building 6, Suite 201, Lawrence – 10 a.m.
–Highlands Council, 100 North Road, Chester – 1 p.m.
–UMDNJ Advisory Committee Public Hearing, Essex County Leroy F. Smith Public Safety Building, 60 Nelson Place, Newark – 6:30 p.m.
Friday, October 14
–Pinelands Commission, Sullivan Center, 15C Springfield Road, New Lisbon
Daily Events – 9:30 a.m.
–Roundtable Breakfast with Gov. Chris Christie’s Chief Counsel Jeff Chiesa, N.J. Chamber of Commerce, Forsgate Country Club, Monroe Township, N.J. Turnpike Exit 8A – 8:30 a.m.
–N.J. League of Municipalities: Ethics and Conflicts of Interest, Conference Center at Mercer, Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor – 9 a.m.