(Below are excerpts from newly-elected Republican governor Chris Christie’s February 11 speech to the New Jersey legislature. Christie is a true reformer after decades of Democrat corruption, and his speech is a model for toughness and bold action that can serve as a template for conservatives across the nation, including the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. It puts the crisis in perspective, offers clear and unequivocal solutions, and is a blueprint to put all of America on a sound fiscal footing. Each excerpt is followed by my comments.)
Christie: “New Jersey is in a state of financial crisis. Our state’s budget has been left in a shambles and requires immediate action to achieve balance. For the current fiscal year 2010, which has only four and one-half months left to go, the budget we have inherited has a two billion dollar gap. The budget passed less than eight months ago, in June of last year, contained all of the same worn out tricks of the trade that have become common place in Trenton, that have driven our citizens to anger and frustration and our wonderful state to the edge of bankruptcy.” Comment: This is blunt, straightforward language and is infinitely better than the usual soft-soaping of a crisis. Christie is willing to state the truth.
Christie: “What do I mean exactly? This year’s budget projected 5.1 % growth in sales tax revenue and flat growth in corporate business tax revenues. In June of 2009, was there anyone in New Jersey, other than in the department of treasury, who actually believed any revenues would grow in 2009-2010? With spiraling unemployment heading over 10%, with a financial system in crisis and with consumers petrified to spend, only Trenton treasury officials could certify that kind of growth. In fact, sales tax revenue is not up 5%, it is down 5.5%; and corporate business tax revenue is not flat, it is down 8%. Any wonder why we are in such big trouble? …The facts are that revenues are coming in $1.2 billion below what was projected last year, and over $800 million in additional spending was done by the previous administration on their way out the door.” Comment: You can’t argue with facts. Good for Christie.
Christie: “Our conscience and common sense require us to fix the problem in a way that does not raise taxes on the most overtaxed citizens in America. Our love for our children requires that we do not shove today’s problems under the rug only to be discovered again tomorrow. Our sense of decency must require that we stop using tricks that will make next year’s budget problem even worse.” Comment: Wow, somebody who no longer sees spending as an inevitable one-way entitlement. And he is refusing to use “the children” as props for more spending but to be honest about their future prospects if that spending is not controlled.
Christie: “The defenders of the status quo will start chattering as soon as I leave this chamber. They’ll say the problems are not that bad; listen to me, I can spare you the pain and sacrifice. We know this is simply not true. New Jersey has been steaming toward financial disaster for years due to that kind of attitude. The people elected us to end the talk and to act decisively. Today is the day for the complaining to end and for statesmanship to begin.” Comment: Speak boldly, governor. You may be president someday. The Democrats who have caused our state and national debt crises are running scared from coast to coast.
Christie: “This morning, I signed an executive order freezing the necessary state spending to balance our budget. We will freeze the spending of unspent technical balances across a wide array of state programs. This includes everything from unspent funds to upgrade energy systems in state facilities to those aimed at assisting local governments in their consolidation plans… Some projects will be delayed or terminated, some services will be reduced. But in total, we can reduce spending by over $550 million this year by lapsing these unspent balances – by not spending these funds and applying them now towards our multi-billion dollar budget gap.” Comment: Has any Democrat ever uttered those words… “freezing the necessary state spending to balance our budget”? It’s hard to recall. No, never.
Christie: “In total, deferral of these long term projects and items to a less rainy day in New Jersey can reduce spending by $90 million in this fiscal year. We can improve certain practices in the ways we use and collect revenues. Two examples: we can accelerate our dispute resolution processes on taxation settlements and save $20 million…” Comment: It used to be that $90 million here and $20 million there were considered chump change. Christie is showing that this no longer is acceptable. All those millions add up to real money.
Christie: “By far the biggest category of spending we will need to cut, however, is that for programs which actually have merit, and in most cases make sense, but which we simply cannot afford at this time.” Comment: This is how to balance a government budget – by talking honestly, fearlessly and boldly.
Christie: “For example, the state cannot continue to subsidize New Jersey transit to the extent it does. So I am cutting that subsidy. New Jersey transit will have to improve the efficiency of its operations, revisit its rich union contracts, end the patronage hiring that has typified its past, and may also have to consider service reductions or fare increases. But the system needs to be made more efficient and effective.” Comment: Finally, a political leader who won’t continue to throw money down the drain in the name of ‘public services’ but who will instead demand efficiency and accountability.
Christie: “The state cannot this year spend another $100 million contributing to a pension system that is desperately in need of reform. I am encouraged by the bi-partisan bills filed in the Senate this week to begin pension and benefit reform. … These bills must just mark the beginning, not the end, of our conversation and actions on pension and benefit reform. Because make no mistake about it, pensions and benefits are the major driver of our spending increases at all levels of government—state, county, municipal and school board.” Comment: For decades, unionized government employees – mostly Democrats – have been draining taxpayers across the nation dry. It is going to end now in one state.
Christie: “One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits — a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment. Is that fair? A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime. Is it “fair” for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess?” Comment: These are the kinds of figures that Democrats have been hiding for decades. Christie will cause a major political shift by finally exposing them. The people of New Jersey are going to be aghast at what has been going on underneath their noses.
Christie: “The total unfunded pension and medical benefit costs are $90 billion. We would have to pay $7 billion per year to make them current. We don’t have that money—you know it and I know it. What has been done to our citizens by offering a pension system we cannot afford and health benefits that are 41% more expensive than the average fortune 500 company’s costs is the truly unfair part of this equation.” Comment: Good. Compare what the citizens get to what the bureaucrats get. There is nothing like a side-by-side comparison to awaken the public.
Christie: “I am implementing a solution which insures that every school district has the resources to provide a thorough and efficient education to its students…. Suburban districts will sacrifice. Urban districts will sacrifice. Rural districts will sacrifice. Some, both inside and outside this chamber, will urge you to retreat to the corner and protect your own piece of turf. Our state is in crisis. Our people are hurting. Now is the time when we all must resist the traditional, selfish call to protect your own turf at the cost of our state. It is time to leave the corner, join the sacrifice, come to the center of the room and be part of the solution.” Comment: “Sacrifice” used to be code language for “tax increases”. No longer.
Christie: “In total, I am cutting spending in 375 different state programs, from every corner of state government… Taken as a package, they will achieve the required savings and eliminate our $2 billion budget gap… I ask of you in the legislature to show the same frankness and commitment. For inaction is not an option. That was the path taken for far too long. The cuts I have outlined may sound dramatic. And they are. Some sound painful. And they will be.” Comment: Never before have such truths been uttered in such succinct terms.
Christie: “So upon arrival, my administration had $6 billion of balances to work with — $6 billion of balances from which to find $2 billion of savings. We had to cut 1/3 of our available funds with only 4 ½ months to go in the fiscal year… We chose not to use gimmicks or band aids to hide the budget gap or defer it until next year, when it would be even worse. We refused to repeat the failures of the past. We chose to confront the problem head on by reforming our spending habits, and laying the groundwork for reform so that we can repair a structural deficit that will be even larger – many times larger – in the next fiscal year, 2011.” Comment: This type of boldness will garner applause from rational people, while the greedy Democrats scowl that they finally have been exposed and will be forced to give up their financial armchairs.
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