Christie May Be What the Doctor Ordered

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When people elected Chris Christie for governor, they said they wanted “change.”  The same thing happened in 2008 when the country elected President Barack Obama.  CHANGE is a great campaign slogan—it’s catchy, it’s concise and who can argue with it?  But, when it comes to governing, change, or the promise of change, doesn’t exactly translate into decision making.  In government, the devil is always in the details. 


People can say they want to change the course of state government and the way business is done in Trenton.  They say they want government to cut spending and get “smaller.”  But recently when Governor Christie announced how he would go about closing a current $2.2 billion budget gap, for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, all hell broke loose. 


The Democrats in the legislature raised hell saying they weren’t included in the process.  (He should have given the Democrats a heads up.)  They said they were shocked by Christie’s proposals to cut nearly $500 million in state aid to hundreds of local school districts that had a surplus.  Further, no one in the higher ed community is happy that Christie is calling for a cut in state aid to public colleges and universities with a surplus.  


Funny, everyone agreed that CHANGE was necessary in the amount of state subsidiaries going to NJ Transit given its bloated bureaucracy, but when Governor Christie said he would actually do it, rumblings begin about the potential for massive hikes in bus and train fares. 


Chris Christie made it clear that his proposed education cuts should in no way effect classroom instruction, not to mention result in a hike in property taxes, but what happens if that DOES happen, and there is a good chance it will?  What will local tax payers do?  Who do they look to?  Who do they hold responsible and ultimately who do they blame?  Taxpayers want change…for the other guy!   


If you ask me, Chris Christie is doing what he promised to do, which is cut the amount of money the government spends.  It’s just that certain people don’t like the way he is going about doing it.  Some say he should cut the state bureaucracy first.  I say he will when he proposes his first budget beginning on July 1.  Christie is leading the effort to reexamine public employee pensions and healthcare benefits.  Isn’t he saying that public employees should pay a greater percentage of their own healthcare benefits and pay more into their retirement?  It is easy to criticize what Governor Christie is doing, because he is doing something.  But I haven’t heard many critics come up with their own plan to deal with the current fiscal year crisis, much less how to close an $11 billion budget gap expected to kick in when the new fiscal year begins on July 1.


Could Chris Christie have done a better job informing Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speak Sheila Oliver about his latest fiscal plans?  Sure, and he is playing catch up with the Democrats now.  But I say when a state is bordering on bankruptcy, should we be that obsessed about process, courtesy and protocol?  Some question Governor Chris Christie declaring a fiscal state of emergency, which allows him certain powers to do things without the legislature.  I’d love to hear someone say we don’t have a fiscal emergency and then tell us what exactly would qualify as one?  How much more in the red do we need to be?  How much worse does the pension and benefit situation need to become? 


Yes, Chris Christie can be a bull in the china shop, but maybe a bull is what we need because the politicians who have been politely dancing around New Jersey’s fiscal mess don’t get many points in my book, and they shouldn’t in yours. 


Do we want a governor who is going to kick some butt and get things done even if he ruffles some feathers?  Or, do we want one who is going to play nice in the sandbox even if that sandbox is filled with a ton of dog do.  That’s the question.  Like I said, as a slogan CHANGE is easy.  But in government, CHANGE is hard.  What do you think? 

Christie May Be What the Doctor Ordered