Morning News Digest: January 20, 2010

Chris Christie is sworn in as 55th governor of New Jersey

Republican Chris Christie was sworn in as New Jersey’s 55th governor and the first Republican governor in eight years today at the War Memorial in Trenton. Moments later, Kim Guadagno was sworn in as the state’s first-ever Lieutenant governor. The oath of office was administered by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. Christie will swear in Guadagno as secretary of state during a private ceremony. When 9 year old Patrick Christie and 6-year-old Bridget Christie said the pledge of allegiance, half the audience — including their dad –faced them instead of the flag. Bridget dissolved in giggles at the end to laughs and applause. Christie took a noticeable deep breath before the oath was administered. Outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine looked on without emotion. Afterward Corzine rose with the audience and smiled as he and Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) shared a whisper. Christie began the day with a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The Christie family awoke at home in Mendham this morning and went right to the Mass. Hundreds gathered for the invitation-only Mass under the soaring ceiling of the church, the mother church for the area’s Catholic archdiocese. Christie, his wife and their kids were given a private breakfast reception with the archbishop just after the Mass, prior to leaving in the standard two-car gubernatorial motorcade for the trip to Trenton. Christie and Guadagno will attend a cocktail party at the Prudential Center later tonight. (Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/chris_christie_is_sworn_in_as.html

Rothman won’t run against Christie in 2013; says Brown win more about Coakley than Obama

On the day Gov. Chris Christie took the oath of office, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) ruled out running against him. “Yes,” he told PolitickerNJ.com when asked if he had eliminated the possibility of challenging Christie in 2013. “I was a local mayor, county surrogate and judge and now I am a congressman focusing on national and international issues,” said the congressman. “My concern will be in one office or another in Washington, D.C.” He was the first congressman in New Jersey to back PresidentBarack Obama, a loyal retainer from nearly the beginning, and Rothman still staunchly believes in the chief executive – a smart and cool under pressure president, in his view – despite Democrats eating a hard loss tonight in Massachusetts with the defeat of Attorney General Martha Coakley by GOP state Sen. Scott Brown. Obama campaigned for Coakely with a rally on Sunday, just as he swung into New Jersey for an 11th hour effort on behalf of loser and former Gov. Jon Corzine, who in his farewell address to New Jersey a week ago paid special tribute to the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, for whose vacant seat Brown tonight battled and beat Coakley. “We’ll learn more about what motivated the Massachusetts voters when we learn about the exit polls,” Rothman said, “but above all, it is the way the respective candidates connected or failed to connect with the voters in a special election. Above all it is a referendum on the respective candidates running for the senate and that is the overwhelming factor. Martha Coakley was a successful attorney general with qualities one looks for in an attorney general but may not look for in a U.S. senator, especially in tough economic times.” People didn’t like Coakley, Rothman said. But he didn’t dismiss altogether the immediate blowback Obama’s suffering at the end of his first year in office. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

http://www.politickernj.com/max/36239/rothman-wont-run-against-christie-2013-says-brown-win-more-about-coakley-obama

Schundler gets warm reception

There wasn’t enough Bret Schundler to go around today. The former mayor of Jersey City, a two-time unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate, had been out of the spotlight for some time, working in the low-profile role of chief operating officer at Manhattan’s King’s College, a Christian liberal arts school, and starting a campiagn to return to the mayor’s office last year that didn’t gain much traction (Schundler dropped out nearly five months before election day, citing a hit to his investment portfolio). Now, as Schundler stood in the hallway of the Trenton War Memorial, attendees of Gov. Christopher Christie’s inauguration clamored to shake the hand of Christie’s nominee to be the next commissioner of education – a provocative choice because of his outspokenness for school vouchers, even if he has so far offered a measured tone when talking about voucher’s opponent, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). “It’s like a Schundler fan club,” said one man. Schundler joked that the last time so many people wanted to talk to him was at his wedding. “And they were all related to me,” he said. Schundler reiterated that once he takes office, he will not seek merely to butt heads with the teachers union.”The reality is I think my relationship with them is going to be respectful… We’ll be able to constructively work on a lot of things together. At times we’re going to disagree,” he said. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

http://www.politickernj.com/matt-friedman/36219/second-most-popular-man-inauguration

Zimmer thinks there could be a Republican ‘surprise’ in District 12

After former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-Delaware Twp.) challenged then-freshman U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) in 2000, redistricting gave Democrats a large registration advantage in that congressional district. And since Zimmer’s extremely narrow defeat almost a decade ago, no challengers to Holt have come close. “In a normal year, it would be very difficult. But this is not a normal year,” said Zimmer, who stood in the War Memorial hallway talking to U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Vineland) about the Massachusetts U.S. senate race. “Rush Holt has become a pretty reliable vote for the entire big government agenda, which has not been very popular this year,” said Zimmer. Two Republicans are running in a primary with the aim of taking on Holt in November: Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre and Princeton venture capitalist Scott Sipprelle. Zimmer, who works as a lobbyist in Washington, DC, signed on to Halfacre’s finance committee months ago – before Sipprelle entered the race. He said that he plans to meet with Sipprelle soon, but that he will continue to support Halfacre. “I made a commitment, and I’m going to keep my commitment,” he said. “Based on what I know about Mike, and I met with him a few times, and what I know about Sipprelle, I think they’re both strong candidates, and I think they can take advantage of a Republican tide and surprise a lot of people.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

http://www.politickernj.com/matt-friedman/36218/zimmer-thinks-there-could-be-republican-surprise-district-12

Gov. Chris Christie’s call for bipartisanship in inaugural address echoed by N.J. lawmakers

 Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle echo Gov. Chris Christie’s call for bipartisanship in his inaugural address, saying the state’s dire problems demand cooperation. “We have to get along,” Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said. “We have no choice.” Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) said lawmakers should unite behind the goal of making New Jersey more affordable. “People in New Jersey don’t want games,” he said. “They want real, concrete solutions.” Some of the lawmakers appreciated Christie’s call to bold action. “We don’t have the luxury of doing things incrementally anymore,” Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) said. “We have the most powerful governorship in the nation. We need someone who is willing, brave enough, who’s got the courage to use the bully pulpit to force some profound changes.” During the inaugural address, Christie asked Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34th Dist.) to join him at the podium for a ceremonial handshake, pledging to work with both leaders from the opposing political party. Afterward, Sweeney said the handshake was not planned ahead of time, even though it was included in the prepared text of the speech. “That was a very nice, kind gesture,” Sweeney said. “I think he’s signaling to the state of New Jersey that he’s willing to work with everybody.” Former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, who lost to Christie in the Republican primary last year, said he thought the incoming governor toned down his combative streak. “He could have pointed more to the big government policies of the prior administration and how they failed, and how they could be reversed,” he said. “I think he put it more delicately than that.” But lawmakers expect Christie to be an aggressive leader. “This governor, more than any other governor in my career, has put a marker down, made a statement, and he will follow through on that statement,” said Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R-Burlington). Buono said New Jersey has needed a governor who is decisive — not a word used to describe outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. “It will be a refreshing change to walk out of a meeting knowing what you agree to. That didn’t always happen in the past,” she said. “I appreciate (Christie’s) directness.” Four years ago, Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) joked with Gov. Jon Corzine that the rifles used in the 19-gun salute will one day be pointed at him. Reminded of that remark today in the Statehouse, Codey laughed. With Chris Christie taking office, he said the situation might be different. (Megerian, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/gov_chris_christies_inaugural.html

Taking Office, Christie Vows to Seize New Jersey’s ‘Last’ Hope

Saying he would not squander New Jersey’s “last, best hope” to reverse its decline, Christopher J. Christie took office on Tuesday as the state’s 55th governor, vowing to break through partisan gridlock to bring about lower taxes, economic resurgence and school choice. Facing an $8 billion deficit, falling tax receipts and high unemployment, Mr. Christie said he would reduce the size of state government and compel cities and towns to spend less. “Our state is losing ground,” he said after his noontime swearing-in here. “Our people are dispirited and wondering if our best days are truly still ahead of us.” But Mr. Christie, the first Republican elected governor in heavily Democratic New Jersey since 1997, also emphasized that the state could move beyond fear and uncertainty. “We have the tools for a brighter future, if we change direction,” he said. The inauguration was the centerpiece of a no-frills day of celebration that began with a solemn Mass at the seat of the Archdiocese of Newark, the city where Mr. Christie was born, and ended at a low-key evening party at the two-year-old hockey arena in downtown Newark. Few luminaries attended the festivities. Donald J. Trump sat in the front pew of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the morning Eucharist celebration. Michael S. Steele, the Republican national chairman, and Woody Johnson, the owner of the Jets, attended the swearing-in at the Trenton War Memorial. Mr. Christie’s speech offered more determination than inspiration, even when he called on legislators and citizens alike to dispense with cynicism and lend a hand. “One person can make a difference,” he said. “I will make a difference.” Mr. Christie, 47, was received enthusiastically by a large crowd. But the change in power, and the paucity of detail about his plans, have cast a sense of uncertainty and tentativeness over the capital. Though he used the word “change” some 15 times — repeatedly saying “change has arrived,” for example — he shared few specifics about how the changes he envisioned would be implemented, and at what price. (Halbfinger/Kocieniewski, New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/nyregion/20christie.html

Former Gov. Tom Kean guides protegé Chris Christie to the top

After watching his protege be sworn in as New Jersey’s 55th governor, the man responsible for bringing Chris Christie into politics stood by with a smile and thought back to the beginning. Former Gov. Tom Kean told a story familiar to those who have followed Christie’s campaign and career. When Christie was 14, he heard Kean speak at Livingston High School and came home fired up about politics but uncertain how to start. “He groused about that at home for awhile,” until his mother, Sondra Christie, told Chris, “All right, get in the car,” Kean said. They drove to Kean’s house and Christie knocked on the door, his mother watching from the driveway. “His mother’s at the car, he’s looking at his mother, nervous, and says, ‘Sir, I want to get involved in politics and I don’t know how to do it, and my mother says I gotta ask you,'” Kean said. “I said basically, ‘I’m thinking of running for governor. If you want to find out, get in the car. I’m going up to Bergen County. Come with me and see if you like it.” Christie was hooked. After listening to his inaugural address today, Kean said his student has come a long way — but in some respects, little has changed. “He was not shy,” Kean said. “Although his mother was the one who forced him up to the front door….I think he’s got the kind of character that it takes. He knows what he believes in, he knows what he wants to do and he knows who he is, and I think that’s going to help.” “He brings a real New Jersey background. He understands this state to the core,” the former two-term governor said, referencing Christie’s famous affection for the state’s biggest rock star, Bruce Springsteen. “It doesn’t matter what people say about Bruce Springsteen — that’s just one thing. He does know this state. He believes in it.” Standing near the stage where he had a front-row seat for the ceremonies, Kean said he and Christie have talked often since the election, conversations Christie has singled out as his most helpful preparation. Kean said he has been giving Christie advice on dealing with a Democrat-controlled Legislature — he was the last Republican governor to do so — as well as juggling the governorship and four young children. He said Christie was “wise” not to move his family from Morris County to the governor’s mansion in Princeton. He said Christie’s speech represented “a good start.” (Heininger, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/former_gov_tom_kean.html

Governor Chris Christie’s inauguration speech

Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, Senate President Sweeney, Speaker Oliver, members of the 214th legislature, Chief Justice Rabner and the members of the supreme court, to all the former Governors, to my former U.S. Attorney colleagues, to my dear family and friends, and most of all to the hard working men and women of New Jersey, I stand here today as your Governor. I understand the task before me and I am well aware of your expectations for me and this government. You voted loudly and clearly for change and you have entrusted us with what may be our last, best hope for a stronger New Jersey—the New Jersey of our youth, full of hope and opportunity. New Jersey, you voted for change and today change has arrived. I stand before you at an historic moment for New Jersey, a State rich in history. It was, of course, in this very city, in the midst of a cold winter such as this one, and tremendous hardship for his troops, that George Washington crossed an icy Delaware some 233 years ago to win a battle that contributed so much to our history as a free people, and ultimately to the idea that a better life was possible in America. Today, our challenges are different. We do not face the hardship of Washington’s troops. But our economy is struggling. Our budget is in deep deficit and our State is losing ground. Our people are dispirited and wondering if our best days are truly still ahead of us. So let me begin with the spirit of those giants who have preceded us in mind. First, I say to the people of New Jersey, while the economic hour is dark, there are brighter days ahead. We have the tools to win the battle for a better future. More than our forefathers did ; even more than we realize ourselves. And second, to all the people of the State, whether you voted for me or not, whether we have agreed or disagreed in the past – today, I am your governor. Young or old, republican or democrat, rich or poor, regardless of color or heritage – I promise you this: I will work every waking hour of every day to build a better life for all of our citizens. To governor Corzine, I thank you for your decade of service to the nation and to the people of New Jersey. Your focus on the health of our children is something for which many New Jerseyans will long be grateful. I thank you sir, for your service. (Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/01/governor_chris_christies_inaug.html

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie hosts inaugural gala at Newark’s Prudential Center

 The giant video screens on the outside of the Prudential Center in Newark flashed images of a victorious Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno from election night as people started to arrive for the inaugural gala tonight. “There’s a lot of energy,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Union) said as he speed-walked toward the arena. “It’s very positive.” The crowd included many Christie supporters who bolstered his campaign last year, including Jack Verdon, a psychiatrist from Long Branch. “I hope he’s going to be good for the state,” he said. “I think he’s a man of integrity.” Inside, on the floor of the Prudential Center arena, organizers placed rows of tables with white tablecloths while caterers set up the food stations. Jersey-themed touches were everywhere. The dance floor was ringed by mock Turnpike and Parkway exit signs, and underneath each location were “Taste of New Jersey'” offerings: salt water taffy for Atlantic City, Campell’s tomato soup for Camden. Red and blue spotlights swung back and forth as scrolling marquees announced: “Congratulations Governor Chris Christie and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.” Officers from the State Police, Union, Somerset and Essex County sheriffs departments and Newark Police were stationed around and inside the Prudential Center. Throughout the day, 17 bomb-sniffing dogs made sweeps of the facility and surrounding area. Christie stressed his Jersey roots throughout the campaign, and large screens throughout the arena displayed scenes from around the state: the Jersey shore, the Newark skyline, a bushel of Jersey tomatoes. (Megerian, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/nj_gov_chris_christies_inaugur.html

In final hours, Gov. Jon Corzine thanks staff, leaves letter for Christie

After a late night signing bills and issuing pardons, Gov. Jon Corzine today spent his final hours as chief executive at the Statehouse thanking his staff. As movers carried boxes, oversized chairs and other furniture in and out out of the governor’s office, Corzine greeted aides across the hall in the office of the chief counsel. Corzine’s name was already scraped off the glass doors this morning, to be replaced tonight by Christie’s. Corzine had planned to revive a dormant tradition by leaving a handwritten letter for his successor, wishing Christie the best. Another lawmaker had the same idea, as Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer) ducked into the governor’s office to leave a note for Bill Stepien. Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager and now deputy chief of staff, ran Baroni’s first campaign for Assembly and wrote Baroni a letter at the time, the senator recalled. Corzine walked into his office and thanked tearful secretaries without commenting to reporters. “Take care, everyone,” the governor told his staff, before leaving in a waiting SUV with companion Sharon Elghanayan for the war memorial. Corzine has not given any indication of his plans for the rest of the day after attending the inaugural. He will be transported by the normal 2-car state police detail from the War Memorial and will have full gubernatorial complement for the rest of the day. Starting Wednesday, he will be allowed a one-trooper, one-car security detail for up to six months. He has not said how long he’d want it. (Heininger, Star Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/gov_jon_corzine_wraps_up_clean.html

Corzine says he’ll remain active progressive voice

Gov. Corzine yesterday blamed himself for his political shortcomings and Election Day defeat, pledged to remain an active voice for progressive policies, and envisioned working well into his 70s or beyond after figuring out his next step. In an interview on his final full day in office, Corzine reiterated the message of his State of the State speech last week, that he “couldn’t be more grateful” for his time in public life and “the opportunity to serve.” “Being the governor is clearly the most meaningful thing that I’ve ever been involved with,” Corzine said. A former investment banker who made hundreds of millions of dollars in a rapid rise to the top of Goldman Sachs, Corzine’s public career included five years in the U.S. Senate, four in the governor’s office, and more than $130 million spent on three campaigns. He said it was worth it. “If you want to change the lives of tens of thousands or millions of kids with regard to education, if you want to change the achievement gap for minority students, government is the place where you address those issues,” said Corzine, 63. “This is where you do things in scale and, I think, have a tremendous impact.” Corzine, whose term officially ends at noon today, spent yesterday in a Newark office building, signing dozens of bills, including a measure to end state control of Camden government. One bill he planned to sign would require everyone in a vehicle, including adults in backseats, to wear seat belts. Corzine, nearly killed in a 2007 accident in which he was not wearing his seat belt, said “you can imagine I’m somewhat emotionally attached to” that law. He said he expects to spend more time with his three children and grandchildren after leaving office, possibly teach, and keep working, hinting at a step back to the private sector. “If I’m not working when I’m 75, maybe even longer than that, I’d be very disappointed in my work ethic,” Corzine said. “Working and taking on challenges is not a burden. Actually, [it’s] what makes life worth living.” He expects to maintain a “home base” in New Jersey – he currently lives in Hoboken – but may end up in China, Israel, or some other far-flung locale. “I have no idea what the next job will be,” Corzine said. A former Wall Street titan, he said rebuilding the nation’s financial system “seems like an important element” of the national economic recovery, and one that can be done while still being a “good corporate” citizen. A believer in an active government that provides better schools and health care, Corzine said he wants to be a voice for progressives, especially in the face of the kind of anger he sees at Tea Party rallies and that manifested itself in opposition to his controversial, ill-fated toll road proposal in 2008. (Tamari, Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20100119_Corzine_says_he_ll_remain_an_active_progressive_voice.html

Republicans hoping Christie will lead resurgence of GOP

When Governor Christie declared, “It is long overdue time to bring our pride back,” near the end of his inaugural speech Tuesday, he was referring to repairing people’s confidence in the entire state of New Jersey. North Jersey Republicans, however, are hoping he can do the same for them, leading a resurgence of the party that started with several Republican victories last year when Christie head up the ticket. “Bergen County Republicans are very hopeful for 2010,” said Robert Ortiz, the former Republican county chairman. Republican leaders argue that Christie’s ascension represents the start of a reversal of fortunes for the party, which has often found itself marginalized in Democrat-dominated Bergen and Passaic counties. They cited the presence of a popular county executive candidate in Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan at the top of the 2010 ticket, the growing national dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, the continuing fallout after last fall’s fraud conviction of former Democratic party boss Joseph Ferriero and the political power of holding the governor’s mansion as factors that could signal a successful fall for Republicans. “Chris Christie is energizing the base in Bergen County,” said Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, R-Washington Township, as he entered the War Memorial Tuesday before the speech. “He’s going to give us the leadership and direction to move forward.” Republican candidates for freeholder in Bergen and Passaic counties won election last November, breaking a years-long Democratic stranglehold on both boards. Robert Yudin, the chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization, believes this year will bring more of the same. “I think you’re going to have an overwhelming Republican sweep,” he said. Yudin pointed out that Christie, who made a number of campaign visits to Bergen County, performed relatively well there when compared with previous Republican gubernatorial candidates, though he still gained fewer votes than Governor Corzine. That could help local Republicans in the fall if they rely on Christie to invigorate fundraising efforts. (Ax, The Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/news/state/politics/011910_Republicans_hoping_Christie_will_lead_resurgence_of_GOP.html

Chiappone skipped over for Assembly committee assignments

Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone, D-Bayonne, didn’t get his committee assignments back. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-East Orange, announce the Democratic committee assignments for the 2010-2011 legislative session today and Chiappone’s name did not appear on the list. Former Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, cut off Chiappone’s pay and benefits and stripped him of his committee assignments after Chiappone was indicted in August. Chiappone was easily reelected in November and after being sworn in this month said he hoped Oliver would reinstate him benefits and assignments. He and his wife Diane pleaded not guilty last month to charges they pocketed paychecks issued to a legislative aide. Hudson County’s other Democratic Assembly representatives got their assignments today: Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus: chair of Regulated Professions; Homeland Security and State Preparedness. Caridad Rodriguez, D-West New York, vice chairwoman of Human Services; Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Ruben Ramos, D-Hoboken: vice chairman of Appropriations; Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities; Education. Charles Mainor, D-Jersey City: Telecommunications and Utilities; Environment and Solid Waste. Joan Quigley, D-Jersey City: Budget, Health and Senior Services, Commerce and Economic Development. “These Assembly committee chairs and committee members are a talented group of leaders with the expertise needed to represent New Jersey well as we push forward on our plans to create jobs, reinvigorate New Jersey’s economy and combat property taxes,” Oliver said in a statement. “They will work hard and get the job done for all New Jerseyans.” (Hayes, Jersey Journal)

http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2010/01/chiappone_skipped_over_for_ass.html

Ingle: Ship of state has a new helmsman

Inaugurals are like New Year’s celebrations: full of hope for a new beginning, a clean slate waiting to be written on, goodbye to the old and hello to the new. And like New Year’s resolutions to stop smoking, eat better and write “thank you” notes, two months down the road things can be back to business as usual. That was the case with former Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who came in four years ago promising all manner of reform to curb the party bosses’ power and left doing their bidding. On the way out he ended state oversight of habitually financially strapped Camden while giving that city’s mayor, tied to Camden County’s Boss George Norcross, sweeping new powers. The day before he departed, Corzine also signed a bill that changes the law concerning how much time has to pass before a local referendum changing the way municipal elections are done can be resubmitted. It used to depend on the questions and the town, but it was about two or three years. Now, thanks to Corzine, it is 10. So much for being a man of the people. Enough of him. When the sun went over the yardarm Tuesday there was a new captain at the helm of the good ship New Jersey. Whether Chris Christie’s voyage will be like that of Columbus — on a creaky old wooden boat that never got to where it was going — or like that of Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise — who zoomed through space at warp speed boldly going where no one had gone before — will be determined in the coming weeks and months. My guess is Christie is a Star Trek fan. “”Today we are taking a new direction. Today a new era of accountability and transparency is here,” he told the cheering audience in the War Memorial theater. He also struck a note for bipartisanship. Perhaps the best moment of his inaugural, certainly the most unexpected, was when he asked Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to come forward and shake his hand. After they did, the lawmakers seated behind them on stage stood up. Then the whole theater did. Beautiful. If only they could keep it going. (Ingle, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/article/20100119/OPINION05/1200331/1093/NEWS03/Ship-of-state-has-a-new-helmsman

Editorial: The Gov. Chris Christie era – public employees face a new day

The memorable moment in Gov. Chris Christie’s upbeat inaugural speech yesterday came when he invited the two Democratic leaders of the Legislature to join him on stage and shake hands. Nice touch. Christie knows he can’t get anything done without these two, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senate President Steve Sweeney. So why not start things off with a little love? The task is not hopeless. Thanks to our desperate state, the two parties are in rare agreement that we need to shrink government. Public employees will be the first target. The opulent benefits many of them enjoy today can’t be justified, given that few taxpayers can match them. We can’t afford to pay beat cops $100,000 a year, as we do today in some towns. We can’t afford to give teachers raises that average nearly 5 percent, as we did last year. And we certainly can’t afford to give cash to public workers for unused sick time. That’s just nuts. During governor Jon Corzine’s years, the fight with unions was restricted almost entirely to Trenton. Corzine made a start, and Christie will press harder. But that’s not where the money is. Even if you fired all state workers tomorrow, you would close less than half the budget deficit next year, because only 20 percent of the money Trenton collects is spent on state operations. The rest is sent to schools, towns, hospitals and other programs. So the more important test is whether Christie and the Democrats can agree on measures to cut spending at the local level — on teachers, police and firefighters. Christie has already ordered his staff to prepare for cuts in local aid as deep as 25 percent. But it can’t end there. Trenton sets the rules for contract negotiations, and they are tilted today in favor of the unions. Edison pays its cops an average of more than $100,000 because surrounding towns do as well, and state arbitration rules force Edison to keep up. The same dynamic drives up teacher salaries.

http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2010/01/the_gov_chris_christie_era_pub.html

Mulshine: Could Christie just drop the clichés for a change?

 Well, the 19-gun salute was impressive. As for the speech that followed, I was underwhelmed. The new governor’s inaugural address was a continuation of his rhetorical approach of lining up cliché after cliché like a train wreck, if I may employ a cliché of my own. He repeated the central theme, “change has arrived,” over and over without giving any idea as to what that change might be. Once again, the man who invoked the cliché “I’ll turn Trenton upside-down” during the campaign gave every indication he will leave it right-side up, only with Chris Christie on top instead of Jon Corzine. We got a hint of that when he pledged to end “an era of partisanship and acrimony.” This is standard political rhetoric. But it wasn’t partisanship that got us into this mess. It was bipartisanship. Both parties have competed to outspend each other for all of recent history. The debt crisis that Christie decried in the speech was born in the Whitman era, when the Democrats and Republicans agreed to deny you a vote on the billions they borrowed in your name. The out-of-control spending on failed urban schools to which Christie alluded was also born of bipartisan agreement in that era. And if you live in the suburbs and want an equal share of state aid for your local schools, Christie agrees with the Democrats that you won’t be seeing it any time soon. The voters deserved a clear choice on such issues this year, but the Republicans did their best to prevent that. After the speech I sought out the only Republican in the Legislature who opposed Christie in the primary. Coincidentally enough, when I met up withMike Doherty, we were crossing the field where those cannons had been sitting just moments before. Doherty knows his way around a cannon. After he graduated West Point, Doherty served as an artillery officer before eventually settling down in Warren County. As we walked, Doherty recalled how he’d been targeted by the state GOP establishment when he supported slash-and-burn conservative Steve Lonegan in last year’s primary. Doherty, who was running in the primary for state Senate, was hit with one cheap shot after another, the cheapest being an assault on his patriotism, quite a feat given his military background and the fact that he has two sons in the service.

http://blog.nj.com/njv_paul_mulshine/2010/01/could_gov_chris_christie_just.html

Morning News Digest: January 20, 2010