The battle for New Jersey begins on Thursday. After three months of town hall meetings where he aggressively campaigned for budget cuts and his reform agenda, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) this morning called the Democratic state legislature into special session.
Christie has already closed half of the state’s $11 billion budget gap. Now he is asking for a 2.5% property tax cap along with 33 proposals to help local governments cut taxes and reduce their budgets. Over 200 Mayors including liberal Cory Booker (D-Newark) are backing the Governor’s reform package, and it is also supported by 67% of NJ residents.
Christie says he may be a one term Governor, but NJ can no longer remain the nation’s number one high tax state. In every town meeting he reminded residents that taxes are going up again this year because of the legislature.
The Governor is also seeking a Constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot which would stop property tax increases. It would force towns and schools to scale back salaries and benefits of their unionized workforces. It would create permanent change by making future tax increases dependent on a public referendum.
It would have to pass the legislature by July 7th to make it on to the November ballot. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) met with the Governor this morning and said:
He wants us to be in session every day until July 7th. He can force us into special session but he can not force us to vote on his measures. We will give his proposals a hearing but the Constitutional amendment is not going to be on the ballot this year, because it’s not realistic or reasonable.
Sweeney says voters should trust Democrats to do the right thing. Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D) was in the same meeting and told the press the special session is an example of Christie’s arrogance and it will not be productive. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) says “The Constitutional cap is out.”
Tom Moran of the Newark Star-Ledger says after Christie’s unexpected victory in cutting the budget, “Democrats are retreating in chaos. They stumble through the hallways of the capitol like a defeated army, complete with grousing about their generals.”
“We have not found our footing,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D). “I think a lot of people underestimated Chris Christie.” Gov. Christie says the state can no longer continue with business as usual where spending on schools and public employees keeps skyrocketing.
He wants them to cut back on administrative costs, salaries and benefits. Public employees do not pay for their health benefits, but Christie wants them to pay 1 to 1.5%.
Christie says lower and middle class working families have had to cut back while public employees have been exempt. He also says wealthy residents have been fleeing the state for years. The Governor says “This is the moment. This is it. We’re in the middle of a crisis.”