By Assemblywoman Linda Stender
Every child has heard the story about the Emperor who grandly paraded around as if dressed in the finest clothes, only of course to be wearing nothing at all.
For generations, this tale has been used to teach our youngsters that no one should believe everything they’re told, especially if the evidence does not support the claims.
That brings us to Gov. Chris Christie.
Gov. Christie certainly claims to be in favor of reform.
He says so in his self-described rants. He claims as much when he yells at people on YouTube. He tells it over and over again to fawning conservative pundits.
But here’s the thing – the reality is quite different, as evidenced by his recent veto of legislation to reform New Jersey’s antiquated civil service system.
We have other examples of course, such as his veto of a bill to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing or the many excuses he finds to continue his assault against women’s health care even as he acts like he actually cares about the issue.
But the civil service veto is the clearest example that Gov. Christie is more interested in bombastic news conferences than improving the lives of New Jerseyans. That’s a shame, because that last thing New Jerseyans need right now is someone whose main goal is to promote their own carefully crafted image.
The changes we made to our civil service system were designed to create a more flexible and open system while protecting the public from corruption and patronage.
Actually, considering how much emphasis the governor has placed on civil service reform as a key to lowering property taxes, it’s quite amazing that he let this bill sit on his desk for nearly two months and then delayed its implementation even further.
We worked hard to create a bill that takes into account the concerns of everyone involved in this process, but unfortunately the governor prefers to employ a ‘My Way or the Highway’ approach.
The cesspool at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority is a prime example of why we need civil service reform to protect taxpayer dollars.
Had we had civil service there, we would have had an open and competitive process in place requiring hiring tests. Instead we see the awarding of outrageous salaries and blatant nepotism when it comes to hiring practices.
This is the worst case scenario when you eliminate civil service protection, but also a realistic possibility if the governor got his way and eliminated civil service.
But again, is the governor truly interested in reform or sound bites?
Since he took office a bit more than a year ago, the governor has signed at least 17 Democratic property tax reform bills into law, including several he vocally supported, yet he continuously claims the Legislature has done little on the issue, except when he wants to portray a kinder, gentler image for a day and heaps praise on the Legislature. It’s hard to keep track.
How can the governor sign our bills then blast away? Only the governor can answer that question, but I’m sure he would rather avoid that subject.
After all, civil service reform is needed, but even if the governor signed the bill, it would not instantly lower property taxes.
Nothing can change the fact that this year’s state aid and rebate cuts are already driving up property taxes while millionaires are getting tax breaks.
Assemblywoman Stender is a Democrat who represents the 22nd Legislative District in Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties. She is chairwoman of the Assembly State Government Committee.