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What America Needs Is A Guy Like Chris Christie

by @ 3:05 pm on April 18, 2010. Filed under Political Parties, Politics, Republicans

New Jersey’s Governor continues to impress me:

“I said all during the campaign last year that I was going to govern as if I was a one-termer,” explains New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on a visit this week to the Journal’s editorial board. “And everybody felt that it was just stuff you say during a campaign to sound good. I think after the first 12 weeks, given the stuff I’ve done, they figure: ‘He’s just crazy enough to do it.'”

Call it crazy, or just call it sensible: Mr. Christie is on a mission to make New Jersey competitive once again in the contest to attract people and capital. During last fall’s campaign, while his opponent obliquely criticized Mr. Christie’s size, some Republicans worried that their candidate was squishy—that he wasn’t serious about cutting spending and reining in taxes. Turns out they were wrong.

Listen to Mr. Christie’s take on the state of his state: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” New Jersey’s residents now suffer under the nation’s highest tax burden. Yet the tax hikes haven’t come close to matching increases in spending. Mr. Christie recently introduced a $29.3 billion state budget to eliminate a projected $11 billion deficit for fiscal year 2011.

(…)

After taking office in January, Mr. Christie declared an official state of emergency. This allowed him to freeze $2.2 billion in spending that had already been authorized. Now he needs a Democratic legislature to turn his freeze into an actual cut and to enact the deeper reductions contained in his 2011 budget.

Now, Christie is taking on one of New Jersey’s most long-standing problems, a bloated, inefficient, and inequitably funded education system:

“I’m a product of public schools in New Jersey,” Mr. Christie explains, “and I have great admiration for people who commit their lives to teaching, but this isn’t about them. This is about a union president who makes $265,000 a year, and her executive director who makes $550,000 a year. This is about a union that has been used to getting its way every time. And they have intimidated governors for the last 30 years.”

While the state lost 121,000 jobs last year, education jobs in local school districts soared by more than 11,000. Over the past eight years, according to Mr. Christie, K-12 student enrollment has increased 3% while education jobs have risen by more than 16%. The governor believes cuts in aid to local schools in his budget could be entirely offset if existing teachers would forgo scheduled raises and agree to pay 1.5% of their medical insurance bill for one year, just as new state employees will be required to do every year.

A new Rasmussen poll found that 65% of New Jersey voters agree with him about a one-year pay freeze for teachers. But the teachers union wants to close the budget gap by raising the income tax rate on individuals and small businesses making over $400,000 per year to 10.75% from its current 8.97%.

Mr. Christie doesn’t think that state and local budget problems can be fixed without tackling education spending. That’s because the state has a hybrid system in which local property taxes fund schools and some of the money is redistributed by the state from affluent areas to poorer communities. According to Mr. Christie, New Jersey taxpayers are spending $22,000 per student in the Newark school system, yet less than a third of these students graduate, proving that more money isn’t the answer to better performance. He favors more student choice, which is why he’s ramping up approvals for charter schools.

It’s going to take time for Christie to fix what’s wrong with New Jersey, and with a legislature that remains in Democratic control it won’t be easy, but he’s doing more to fix the Garden State than any of his predecessors and if the people of New Jersey give him time, and more Republicans in the State Senate and the Assembly in a year’s time, I think they’ll like the results.

As for the national implications of Christie’s efforts, Matt Lewis sums it up quite nicely:

[W]hether Christie can turn New Jersey around or not, his willingness to make bold decisions – and stand firm on them — may just help Republicans who are running in 2010 overcome the public’s skepticism as to whether, once in office, they really will cut spending and not raise taxes. It very well may be that Christie’s efforts in New Jersey will send a signal to Republican voters that help is on the way, and that it’s not just politics as usual.

One would hope, because, as I said in March, Christie might just be a model Republicans should start emulating.

One Response to “What America Needs Is A Guy Like Chris Christie”

  1. [...] mostly because he speaks far more bluntly than most other politicians. As I said myself months ago, we could use more people like him in politics who are willing to tell the public that the gravy train of government spending is over and that [...]

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