Last week’s public demonstration by police and fire unions protesting common-sense reforms to employee compensation confirmed a Democratic Party uninterested in solving the problem of high property taxes for middle-class taxpayers, and bodes ill for that party’s claim to ever represent the “center” of NJ’s electorate for years to come.
It is telling that voter esteem for public employee unions is at an all-time low. It appears that voter approval of public employees bears a corresponding inverse relationship to their ability to afford them, in light of NJ’s historic high property taxes and the recession, which has lightened taxpayers’ wallets.
Yet in a sign of how effectively the Democratic Party has been controlled and captured by the unions, most of the leadership of the Democratic Legislature felt compelled to attend the rally and publicly side with the unions, in the fight against the taxpayers’ interest.
In their desperate effort to hold onto gold-plated benefits, the unions appear arrogant. But their arrogance is understandable, when they have for so many years influenced one party (Republicans) and completely controlled the other. Why should they not expect to prevail now?
The difference, of course, is Governor Christie, who has completely altered the playing field, for the first time putting taxpayers at the center of the discussion. It is a playing-field on which the unions are not accustomed to playing, hence the shrill cries, the rallies, and the desperation.
In light of the Democrats’ reflexive shilling for the unions, even in this political environment, It is scary indeed to think of what NJ’s policy and economic climate would be if NJ Democrats ever returned to power.
What would be their answer to the state’s $100 billion un-funded pension and medical benefit liability? What would be their answer to rising property taxes, even with a 2% cap on some expenditures.
I suppose we already know — 115 tax and fee increases in the decade before Christie tells us how the Democrats would handle these problems in the future.
The Democratic Party was not always controlled by public employee unions. Even FDR recognized the obligations elected officials had to taxpayers – this Democratic icon was against collective bargaining for public employees.
Interestingly, and significantly, today one Democratic Party leader stands alone in representing middle-class taxpayers, and is paying a heavy political price in his own Party for doing so.
Senate President Steve Sweeney seems to be the only common-sense voice in that Party. He has proposed important new policies to rein in medical benefit costs for public employee unions.
Can Sweeney work with Governor Christie to enact meaningful, fair compensation changes for public employees? And how will the rest of Sweeney’s Democratic Party react to these proposals? The Democratic Party’s claim to represent NJ’s middle-class is in the balance. Voters will certainly be watching.