What to Expect in Governor Chris Christie’s State of the State Address

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Governor Chris Christie will start out his second State of the State speech on a bipartisan tone, thanking Democratic legislative leaders for  their help on passing public pension reform and a 2 percent cap on local property taxes. But he will say much more needs to be done to further reign in government spending, according to a government source.

Christie will demand that the legislature end the long standing practice of public workers getting paid for their unused sick time at retirement, which saddles municipal balance sheets with as much as a $825 million dollar liability, according to Christie's office.

The governor has said in several recent interviews that this year his top priority will be advancing his education reform agenda. On his list is increased teacher accountability and tenure reform.

An administration source confirmed Christie will use the State of the State to reprise his theme that the state is currently failing to provide an adequate education to some 100,000 students who attend poorly performing urban districts that have historically received billions of dollars in state aid.

Peter Woolley, director of Fairleigh Dickinson's Public Mind Poll, said his latest survey shows Christie's  cost cutting and accountability theme resonates with tax weary voters.

"Three in five voters continue to say the state should cut spending rather than raise taxes even it means reducing spending on important programs," Woolley said. "That's the crowd Chris Christie is clearly pleasing."

Woolley added Christie has a 53 percent approval rating, as high a level as he has scored since he took office two years ago. And while he enjoys robust support from surveyed voters who identify as Republicans, he also garners a majority of polled independents and even gets a thumbs up from one in four Democrats.

But not everyone is cheer leading Christie's track record on chartering the state through tough economic times.

Deborah Howlett, executive director of NJ Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank, said Trenton is not doing enough to grow the state's economy. She thinks Christie and the Democratic-led legislature have emphasized public financed corporate subsidies, which have failed to jump start the state's economy.

"Employment in New Jersey remains stubbornly stuck at 9.1 percent and we have seen the national unemployment rate drop to 8.5 percent, and New Jersey has been traditionally ahead of the nation in terms of unemployment," Howlett said.

Howlett thinks public spending on infrastructure and worker skill development would have been a more efficient way to spark fuller employment.

But Melanie Willoughby, senior vice president with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said Christie's tenure has actually inspired renewed confidence in the state's business community.

"Our members believe there will be an uptick in 2012 in the state's economic activity and we are looking forward to Governor Christie continuing his course of lowering taxes and decreasing regulation," she said.

Christie delayed the State of the State address after the sudden death of Assemblyman Alex DeCroce during the final day of the legislative session at the statehouse in Trenton last week. 


Comments [2]

Jess from Park Slope

What to expect? A snack break for him for sure, in between his proposals to gut services and give the 1% more....

Jan. 17 2012 09:11 AM
Tough Love from Northern NJ

There a two critical items that remain only minimally addressed.

(1) Pension Reform: The goal must be EQUAL Public and Private Sector "Total Compensation" (Cash Pay plus pension accruals plus benefits accruals). Notwithstanding competing pay studies, most such studies show that "cash pay" in the Public and Private Sectors are very close in comparable jobs. With this as the backdrop, there is ZERO justification for greater Public Sector pensions and better benefits.

RIGHT NOW, the taxpayer paid-for share of the TYPICAL public sector pension is 2, 4 (even 6 times) greater in value at retirement than the pension granted Private Sector workers by their employers. The result is far far greater Public Sector "Total Compensation". This is unsustainable (for a cost standpoint), is unnecessary to attract and retain a qualified workforce, and is patently unfair to taxpayers whose contributions (and the investment earnings thereon) pay for 80-90% of Public Sector Pensions. Christie must act NOW to significantly reduce (by 50+%) the pensions accrual rate for FUTURE service to bring Total Compensation to a level NO GREATER than that of the typical taxpayers who pay for this. If this cannot be done, the current DB Plans must be frozen with all employees (including police, the worst offenders .... pension-wise) switched into 401k-style DC Plans with a Taxpayer "match" comparable to what Private Sector workers get from their employers.

(2) Retiree Healthcare: Pre-Medicare Retiree healthcare subsidies are almost unheard of in the Private Sector today. This is NOT a modest perk, but a VERY VERY expensive benefit. As stated before, granting such benefits unnecessarily results in greater Public Sector Total Compensation. Future accrual towards retiree healthcare subsides must end ... NOW. It is patently unfair to force Taxpayers to pay for something they do not get, especially with Public Sector workers earning at least as high cash pay.

Jan. 17 2012 12:49 AM

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