The efforts to turn around the state many proclaim as California’s future are chronicled in the Wall Street Journal.
“'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.
“California and New York have attracted headlines for their budget woes. Yet, as Mr. Christie points out, "Their problems are much smaller than ours as a percentage. [Gov.] David Paterson's talking about an $8.2 billion deficit in New York—I only wish."
“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.
“It might well happen. Many Democrats recognize the state's deep-seated fiscal woes. Mr. Christie has already signed into law a bipartisan plan that begins to reform the state's generous benefit system for government workers. Facing unfunded liabilities of $90 billion in pension and medical plans, Mr. Christie worked with lawmakers to change retirement benefits for new workers and to require all new state employees to pay 1.5% of their medical insurance costs. Until now they were paying nothing.
“He wants to go further. "We need to move forward to try to make some changes in the pension system for current employees," he says. "There's all kinds of problems in doing that, some legal. . . . You can't take away vested benefits, but the argument of whether increases going forward are actually vested or not is an interesting legal issue that we're going to attempt to challenge. . . ." He adds that the current retirement age for state employees, 62, "needs to be moved up further."