Much has been done in my two years as governor, but much remains. However, it could all be threatened by an out-of-control state budget that has been glossed over with promises and wishful thinking for too long.
We finally provided affordable health care for every child in New Jersey and property tax relief to nearly 2 million homeowners. We did the right thing and ended the death penalty across our state. And just last week, the legislature passed a landmark, bipartisan plan to fund our states schools.
I'm worried that we won't be able to make investments in our future as long as our state owes more than $100 billion in bonded debt and unfunded pension and health care liabilities. That's more than $45,000 per New Jersey household and more than virtually any other state. It's time to restructure our state's finances and put New Jersey on sound financial footing for the next 50 years.
My plan imposes three key spending rules on our state budget. First, I will introduce a budget in February that freezes state spending at this year's current level.
Second, we will end the culture of living beyond our means. Under my new rules, any future spending will have to be tied to a real increase in revenue. You can't spend money you don't have at home. Why should the State House be any different?
And third, we will return the state's credit card to the people. For nearly 200 years, our State Constitutions have explicitly barred borrowing without voter approval. But too many loopholes have bypassed the true meaning of this requirement. I am proposing an amendment that ends this practice and restores the people's rightful role in approving most types of borrowing.
Additionally – I want to be clear and honest upfront about this – my plan involves toll hikes. Under my plan the cost of an average trip on the Turnpike would be $2.05 in five years. In 10 years, it will be $5.80.
The average trip today is $1.21. But remember those tolls were set when a gallon of gas was $1.13, a movie ticket was $4, and almost no one had cell phones or email.
Believe me, I've run all the numbers. There is no better alternative to achieve the twin goals of paying down our state's debt and funding the Transportation Trust Fund for the next 75 years.
It would take a 20% increase in the state income tax, a 30% increase in the state sales tax, or a 50-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax to accomplish the same results. All of these other options are terrible for New Jersey's economy and I will not propose any of them.
Again, let me be clear: Under my plan, the people of New Jersey still own our toll roads. I propose selling only the rights to manage them to a not-for-profit Public Benefit Corporation. All safety, maintenance, and roadway standards will be delivered at current or improved levels.
We'll use the money raised by this arrangement to pay down half of our current debt. We'll also be able to fully fund our transportation infrastructure for the next 75 years. Combined with the new spending rules that I am also proposing, this move will finally put New Jersey back on sound financial ground.
This proposal isn't something I want to do. It's something we have to do. It is the best solution I've found to restore the State's financial integrity, health, and capacity.
I understand this plan will be controversial. That's why I will be holding 21 town hall meetings in 21 New Jersey counties to present my plan to voters and to answer every question you might have. I pledge to have an open, honest, and public dialogue as I try to win your support for what I am convinced is an absolutely vital proposal.
Paid for by Corzine '09, Inc., 1 Gateway Center, Suite 1102 Newark, NJ 07102