As he prepares to join the ranks of other Democrats lining up to reelect Gov. Jon Corzine next year, state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) highlights the governor’s efforts to rein in state spending, combined with the Democratic Party’s preparedness to create public works projects to deflect the impact of hard economic times.
“I think unfortunately the reality of what New Jersey was experiencing has now gone to the entire economy,” said Whelan. “This state was overspending for 15 years, using a credit card mentality in its approach to the budget, and I think Gov. Corzine started moving things in the right direction. He has restored fiscal sanity to our state.
“This administration and we as a party have made a statement that we’re not just going to tax our way out of this problem,” he added.
“…In addition to a business stimulus package to create a bigger pie, we need New Deal-style public works projects. A guy told me the other day, ‘that’s not really what ended the Depression, it was WWII.’ Okay, but if you do projects that are essential now, it’s a good opportunity because with the economy dead, the contractors are willing to work for a little less and you can get better deals with labor.”
Democrats have the record – and the federal alliance with the new administration incoming – to tackle road and bridge andotherimprovement projects and should seize the chance, Whelan said.
In the meantime, the Atlantic County lawmaker acknowledges he doesn’t always agree with the Democratic governor.
For example, don’t expectWhelan to return to Trenton in January with charged-up designs on voting for Corzine’s pension referral plan, which came out o the budget committee only to stall in the chamber.
In any event, Whelan doesn’t think he will get the chance to vote one way or the other on the bill, which would enable counties, municipalities, and school boards to defer their state pension payments by 50 percent over a three-year period.
“I think it’s dead,” Whelan told PolitickerNJ.com. “That’s my sense from talking to other legislators, and I have my own reservations with it.”
Like his South Jersey ally, state Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Whelan believes the pension deferral proposal runs counter to what Corzine has stood for over the course of the past three budget cycles.
“Gov. Corzine has been strong about resisting deferrals and gimmicks,” Whelan said. “It’s not a pension holiday but nonetheless we’re deferring pain. There’s just not a consensus of support for this, and I haven’t heard anyone say there was anyone thing that could be added or detracted from the bill to change their minds.”
Regarding another big Democratic Party legislative action, a plan for affordable housing built in part on a tax on commercial development, Whelan said he favors scrapping the 2.5 percent tax for up to 19 months and revisiting the initial legislation after the state emerges from “this horrible business climate.”