Two Democratic legislators from a district where state employees are a huge voting bloc acknowledge Gov. Jon Corzine is in a tough spot and has to make budget cuts, and both profess support for the re-election of their fellow Democrat. But Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) and Wayne D'Angelo (D-Hamilton) can't back some of his latest proposed cost saving measures, like a mandatory two day worker furlough, wage freezes and pension deferrals.
"Respectfully to the Governor in understanding the difficult situation he's in – I'm mindful of it – but all too often, whenever it comes down to balancing a budget or cuts, it's always on the backs of the working families," said DeAngelo, who's also president of the Mercer County Building Trades. "We need to look at other things first before we start taking food off peoples' tables."
The political reality for both Democrats and Republicans here in the 14th – a Trenton-abutting swing district that thousands of state workers call home — is that agreeing with the Governor on those cuts would mean almost certain political suicide.
That puts the incumbents in a sensitive position as well, since the district will likely be one of the Republicans' top targets this year. DeAngelo, a freshman, and Greenstein, a five-term incumbent, can't be seen as too close to the governor if he takes on the public employees unions, but they won't want to alienate the man they're going to share the ticket with either.
"I don't believe the governor has taken an anti-public employee stance by any means, or any of the elected officials on both sides of the aisle who are saying we need to defer the payment on the pension system," said DeAngelo, who sees employee training and renewable energy as the way out of the hole. "We have a fiscal nightmare and are in dire economic times. If we delay these things, it will create a snowball effect. It will get us out of this year but won't resolve our problem."
Greenstein said that she opposes any attempt by the executive branch to circumvent the collective bargaining process. She hopes that the governor will reach out to the unions to discuss his proposals, rather than forcing it through.
"Anything that might happen should not be imposed upon unions. It would have to be completely voluntary," she said. "I think the worst thing is to make this confrontational. I would just talk to people and see if there's a chance of getting anyone to agree on these issues."