His plan will inflict financial pain on users of the state's toll roads, but Corzine has chosen to present it to the voters in person and take their questions. He has been willing to modify the details to meet reasonable criticism, including providing toll discounts for daily drivers and dropping the idea of collecting tolls on Route 440. He has displayed a dignity and a respect for his listeners that too many of the listeners aren't reciprocating. And he's doing all this barely 10 months after a catastrophic accident that left him near death on the side of the Garden State Parkway.
It's called leadership. We haven't seen a lot of it from governors and legislators in recent years.
Contrast Corzine's performance with that of his critics.
Republican legislators have decided to try to make political hay through flat-out opposition. Not one of the 49 GOP lawmakers has agreed to support the governor's program, and a group called the Republican Task Force for Fiscal Responsibility is mimicking the governor's strategy with its own series of town meetings. "We strongly, adamantly, 100 percent disagree with Gov. Corzine's toll plan, and we intend to inform the public why," the chairman, Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Washington Township, said at a forum in Warren County.
It takes no great political or personal courage, of course, to stand before people who don't want to pay higher tolls or taxes and tell them that they won't have to do it. Simply saying no doesn't take salesmanship.
Not that we expect any great political or personal courage from the Republicans in Our Fair State, but it might be nice if they showed some. Even a little.
Still, many Republicans are peddling the notion that spending reductions are the whole answer. For them, it would be instructive if they provided a specific list of cuts and used their open forums to defend them. Like Corzine, they should do it before audiences that aren't predisposed to be friendly. And they should do it week after week.
Let Republican legislators stand in front of an auditorium packed with state and local government workers and teachers and tell them there must be layoffs as well as modifications in their generous retirement and health-care packages. Let them inform a roomful of cops that the binding-arbitration law has driven up the pay of some public-safety workers to excessive levels and needs revision.
Let them say to audiences of suburban parents and educational professionals that school districts should be consolidated on a large scale for cost-effectiveness. Let them tell tax-averse listeners that an increase in the state's gasoline tax would be a reasonable alternative to some of the toll hikes in Corzine's plan.
All these things make sense, but could the governor's critics take the heat? Corzine has shown that he can.
It's called leadership. Unfortunately, George is right: We haven't seen a lot of it from governors and legislators in recent years. We're used to seeing pandering and and blind eyes turned to our problems.
Even if the proposal isn't the best idea for Our Fair State, at least Corzine has the guts to stand up and make his case.