Torricelli on Chris Christie and New Jersey’s future

Everybody needs to start a new job with a list of priorities and Chris Christie is no exception. There might be a thousand things that need to get done but a limited number that can be achieved. He needs to get up every morning, read the list, and raise hell until the list is complete. When it’s done, write anew list.

Here’s a start:

1) Chris Christie won the election but Chris Daggett won the battle of ideas. His plan to make rebates to homeowners contingent on spending controls by county and local governments and school boardsis brilliant. Adopt it.

2) Local Governments often lack the discipline to control local spending constituencies. Place a cap on the ratio of residents tolocal employees, including police and fire personnel, for all cities under 50,000 people.

3) Start all over again with the State’s organizational chart. Make every Department and agency justifyits existence based on current priorities. The fact that they existed is no excuse to exist in the future. Prove your relevance or disappear.

4) Assert personal control over the State pension fund. Contractual obligations make cutting pensions impossible and there isn’t enough tax money to meet the obligations without drowning us in higher taxes. We need to earn our way out of this hole while reforming the pension system in the future to curtail costs. A slight increase in returns, compounded over years, will save billions. The talent exists to find those money managers without taking excessive risk.

5) Begin thinking about vacancies on the State Supreme Court. The Mount Laurel decision is an environmental disaster. The Court’s dictum on school funding still rests on the fiction that quality education and fundinghave a direct correlation. Appoint justices that understand the complexity of equal educational opportunities.

6) Decide on a level of taxation that is competitive with neighboring states and staple it to your wall. Thousands of taxpayers in upper incomes are fleeing New Jersey. The result of higher taxes is less revenue. Taxes must be broad based and competitive.

7) Scrap COAH. Cremate it, bury it,and take no chances with its resurrection. We need to rethink how and where affordable housing is built and how it is funded. Housing should be near the employment and transportation centers and the State should be not encouragingconstructionin sensitive environmental areas (see items 8, 9, and 10!).

8) Cease all water, sewer and road construction outside of areas designated for high growth. The state shouldn’tsubsidize suburban sprawl and should recognize that these expenditures only drive uptaxes by necessitating more schools and more local services.

9) Give the EDA the authority and responsibility to assemble large tracts of urban land that is abandoned, foreclosed, or subject to tax liens. Place the large parcels into packages for development and sell them to developers at cost if they begin construction by a date certain.

10) Respect the voters. They decided to approve the $400M bond issue for open space. Use the funds to negotiate with developers during this recession to get as much land as possible for as little money as possible. Trade their agricultural land for urban sites owned by the government wherever possible and advocate a permanent source of funding to support purchasing land for water quality and open space.

It’s a modest list but it’s a beginning. Chris Christie and Barrack Obama would seem to have little in common but they share one thing: none of us can afford foreither of them to fail.

Torricelli on Chris Christie and New Jersey’s future