Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Governor's 2006 Budget Address

Governor Jon Corzine made his Budget Address earlier this afternoon. As reported in most of our newspapers in the last few days, Corzine mentioned raising the sales tax from 6% to 7%, elimination of 1000 state jobs, cuts in over 70 state programs, restructuring of the child welfare system, and an increase in cigarette taxes. The governor also stated that "economic growth should be the engine to expand revenues, not taxes," and announced some strategic investment concepts to increase economic growth, specifically for pharmecuticals and biotech industries.

The governor stressed that this budget contains "hard choices" and that those hoping for a magic solution from the former Wall Street CEO are out of luck- the budget solutions come down to "old-fashioned arithmetic. We can't keep spending more then we take in." The budget proposed today is only the beginning; the legislature will spend the next two months hammering out the final version.

The address and commentary are available on NJN, and will also be rebroadcast tonight at 10PM. Text of the address is available here.

There was a great moment in the wrap-up where Democratic commentator Rick Thigpen and Republican Roger Bodman began to argue about exactly whose fault is the state's budget mess, and Thigpen compared the spending of the Whitman administration to that of a drunken sailor. He also got in a partisan dig at the federal budget; nice job of hitting the talking points about Republican fiscal irresponsibility!

Assemblymen Louis Greenwald (D) and Joseph Malone (R) and Senators Wayne Bryant (D ) and Anthony Bucco (R) were interviewed by Michael Aron as a legislative response to the address. The Republicans harped on the fact that the total budget increased: "We're raising the taxes to raise the budget," said Assemblyman Malone, without noting the fact that such increases were mostly mandated by previous legislation or by the courts and not on the table for discussion- they must be funded.

Assemblyman Malone also harped on the idea of consolidation but there is no way a consolidation of towns, school districts or services will make a difference in this budget cycle. I hope and expect that the Assemblyman will remember his comments and cross party lines to support Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts when he proposes a package of bills to encourage consolidation.

The budget process will be a long fight, with everyone trying to keep tax increases lower while trying to keep services at the same levels and reducing the budget and posturing politically. As logic dictates, we can't have it all. The governor wapped up his address by saying:

New Jersey is one community, with one future.
If you don’t like what I’ve proposed, then give me an alternative that is as far-reaching and as fair.
If you don’t like the taxes, give me more cuts.
If you don’t like the cuts, then you’re out of luck – because there are already more taxes than I want.
We’ve got a tough few months ahead of us. I am sure there will be a temptation to duck some of the hard questions we must face. But in our hearts, we know better.
And most of all, we recognize that one course is not open to us - just doing more of the same.
So, let’s get at it – together.>)

(cross-posted at bluejersey.net)


DBK said...

Excellent report. I didn't get a chance to listen to the speech, but this summary of the address was so good I don't feel like I need to listen to it.

Nordette Adams said...

I'm slowly coming out of my move-to-Jersey-go-through-mega-maniacal-divorce fog. Eventually I'll get around to grasping Jersey politics. I expect you to help me here, Sharon GR. It's overwhelming. You seem to have a grip. LOL. ~~Nordette