New Jersey’s Fiscal Crisis: Can We Make the Necessary Sacrifices?

By: Salvatore Pizzuro

New Jerseyans must be willing to make sacrifices in order to overcome a myriad of crises!

As suggested in a previous Hall Institute publication, the Governor has made a serious attempt at securing a fiscally responsible government for New Jersey. This mission involves combining a serious, unbending struggle to generate new dollars with the need to pay strict adherence to appropriate ethical practices.

On Tuesday, January 8, 2008, the State Legislature was alerted to the Governor’s plan. While still recovering from the hash reality of a new School Funding Formula that proved divisive in both the Senate and the Assembly, New Jersey’s law makers were suddenly subjected to an executive plan to generate revenue that will prove to be equally contentious.

Nevertheless, New Jersey is encumbered by unprecedented State debt, with no true definitive plan to pay for it. Raising tolls on major highways is only the beginning of the many sacrifices that New Jerseyans will be asked to make.

But, what is the alternative?

Certainly, those sacrifices will be used to solve the problems that were created by irresponsible spending by the State Legislature. The average New Jerseyan is faced with unprecedented property taxes, old and dilapidated school buildings that the now deceased School Construction Authority could not correct, a declining economy, public graft and corruption, health insurance that they cannot afford, and now the doubling of tolls every few years, beginning in 2010.

However, once again, we must ask what alternative do we have?

The Governor has placed his political future on the line in order to return New Jersey to solvency. Obviously, a return to responsible government will not be easy, and will not be achieved with one term. Jon Corzine has placed the prospect of a second term in jeopardy. The Governor’s solutions will require a reasonable amount of time in order to be successful. Yet, we New Jerseyans face mind-boggling problems along with him.

No true measure appears to suggest that property taxes will be lowered in the near future. In fact, it is doubtful that home owners will see another rebate check this year. The atmosphere is ripe for a voter revolt, similar to the one that Jim Florio faced in the early 90’s. Yet, what solution do we New Jerseyans have, other than to make sacrifices in order to ensure our State’s future solvency?

As was also suggested in a previous Hall Institute publication, Jon Corzine took office with challenges greater than those that were faced by any previous Governor in our State’s recent history. He cannot solve them alone. Corzine needs a responsible State Legislature that is willing to serve New Jersey by prioritizing public service over their political careers. Similarly, all New Jersyans must be prepared to make sacrifices in order to solve the State’s fiscal woes.

The next budget may require anywhere from two to three billion dollars in cuts. Such cuts will undoubtedly affect public services. Members of the State Legislature will claim that they are free of responsibility for creating such fiscal woes. However, those same legislators will continue to pursue personal agendas in favor of special interests.

The Governor must work with entrenched public officials from both parties in order to be successful. Jon Corzine cannot create a new political system. He must work within the existing system, which includes recalcitrant legislators and other public officials. The public at large is left with the choice of working with Jon Corzine or using him as a scapegoat for problems that began long before he was elected to the State House.

Certainly, the Governor cannot do it alone. His success depends on the willingness of average citizens to make the necessary sacrifices. Of course, this very concept is unfair to all New Jerseyans. Nevertheless, New Jersey’s survival is dependent upon the public’s willingness to make such sacrifices.

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The Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that explores issues of social, economic, educational and cultural importance to the Garden State. For more information, visit the Hall Institute online at www.hallnj.org or email info@hallnj.org.

 

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