Following John Boehner’s announcement that he will be stepping down as Speaker of the House and likely removing the threat of a government shutdown, New Jersey Democrats are saying that Governor Christie’s pledge promising no tax increases is an invitation for similar conflict and inertia as New Jersey tries to square its budget with dismal realities like the depleted Transportation Trust Fund. Some experts, however, think the governor has more to gain than to lose if the voting public draws comparisons between the two.
“You don’t know what the future’s going to be,” said Senator Jim Whelan (D-2), whose home district includes Atlantic City, where state tax dollars are playing a crucial role in buttressing the former gaming capitol’s emergency management team and efforts to avoid a municipal bankruptcy. “And to make a commitment that you’re always going to do X or never going to do Y is, in my judgement, irresponsible.”
Saying that he did see a common thread between the pro-shutdown stance of the national far right and anti-tax Republicans in the legislature, Whelan added that arguments against measures like the proposed gas tax increase, which would help flagging concerns like the Trust Fund and state pensions, serve a greater political than practical purpose.
“It obviously plays to the Republican base, but I have to assume that part of Boehner’s resignation is frustration with members of his own caucus who just refuse to have any consideration for compromise,” said Whelan. “Somewhere, these folks think that compromise became a dirty word.”
Montclair State University Political Scientist Brigid Harrison had her doubts that the pledge would affect the outcome of the gas tax question, calling it the product of “an enormous amount of political expediency” with too few binding conditions to carry weight.
“Politicians, including the governor, can call some things taxes and other things fees,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) said that she hopes Republicans in New Jersey will come around and approve new taxes.
“Almost everything that Governor Christie has done as a presidential candidate has been in conflict with what is best for New Jersey residents. The Republicans in the state legislature will hopefully stand up to do what is appropriate for the people they represent,” said Weinberg.
“When John Boehner is the liberal, or too liberal, there is definitely something amiss,” she said of Friday’s news.
Ben Dworkin, political scientist and Director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, said that he is predicting a net gain for Christie following the announcement of Boehner’s resignation. Saying that Boehner most likely prevented a shut-down of the federal government before making his decision, he said that Christie’s record of compromise with a Democratic majority would resonate as Boehner’s decision captures headlines.
“If there was a crisis like that in Washington, it would bring attention to candidates who are unlike Christie, who want to stop everything over whatever issue they’re debating,” said Dworkin. “That helps Chris Christie, because he is in the Boehner mold. Chris Christie is the conservative Republican who doesn’t shut down government.”