Friday, April 23, 2010

Bringing Thunder-ous Change to New Jersey By George Will

It appears it can be done. The gap is closed, now Christie is tackling the public unions. We should have a President and Congress that takes action to balance the budget and get rid of all unnecessary agencies and spending.

He inherited a $2.2 billion deficit, and next year's projected deficit of $10.7 billion is, relative to the state's $29.3 billion budget, the nation's worst. Democrats, with the verbal tic -- "Tax the rich!" -- that passes for progressive thinking, demanded that he reinstate the "millionaire's tax," which hit "millionaires" earning $400,000 until it expired Dec. 31. Instead, Christie noted that between 2004 and 2008 there was a net outflow of $70 billion in wealth as "the rich," including small businesses, fled. And he said previous administrations had "raised taxes 115 times in the last eight years alone."

So he closed the $2.2 billion gap by accepting 375 of 378 suggested spending freezes and cuts. In two weeks. By executive actions. In eight weeks he cut $13 billion -- $232 million a day, $9 million an hour. Now comes the hard part.

Government employees' health benefits are, he says, "41 percent more expensive" than those of the average Fortune 500 company. Without changes in current law, "spending will have increased 322 percent in 20 years -- over 16 percent a year." There is, he says, a connection between the state being No. 1 in total tax burden and being No. 1 in the proportion of college students who, after graduating, leave the state.

Partly to pay for teachers' benefits -- most contribute nothing to pay for their health insurance -- property taxes have increased 70 percent in 10 years, to an average annual cost to homeowners of $7,281. Christie proposes a 2.5 percent cap on annual increases.

Challenging teachers unions to live up to their cloying "it's really about the kids" rhetoric, he has told them to choose between a pay freeze and job cuts. Validating his criticism by their response to it, some Bergen County teachers encouraged students to cut classes and go to the football field to protest his policies, and a Bridgewater high school teacher showed students a union-made video critical of him. Christie notes that the $550,000 salary of the executive director of the teachers union is larger than the total cuts proposed for 190 of the state's 605 school districts.

Read article here.

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