In a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Hudson County political figures are jumping on board with Gov. Christopher Christie’s“Tool Kit” for repairing the state economy, when nearly every one of them has to admit the plan simply won’t work.
But you won’t catch any of them telling Gov. Christie that. Especially when redistricting will probably change the political landscape, and those in Christie’s good favor will be spared.
Nobody needs to tell Christie his plan won’t work, because he most likely knows it better than anyone else. Two years from now, when municipal budgets are floundering because legislators foolishly signed onto a spending cap before the rest of the changes in state spending were accomplished, Christie will simply shake his head and say, “Well, I gave you the tools; you just didn’t use them right.”
This is all part of a political Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud, forcing municipal and county governments to limit their spending before the state has actually enacted reforms that would make it possible to live under a 2 percent spending cap.
Some of the key elements of Christie’s “kit” include pension reform, revamping arbitration for uniformed services to consider a government’s ability to pay, and restructuring or eliminating Civil Service protections designed to protect government employees from the political whims of changing administrations.
Public service employee unions point out that Christie hasn’t even asked them if police and firefighters would consider contributing a larger percentage to their own retirement packages. For Christie, it is all about soundbytes. The current governor doesn’t believe in negotiation.
This fits very neatly into the recent police protests over proposed layoffs in Jersey City, and the spectacle police made of a recent fundraiser for Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
Healy recently pointed out that Christie has cut state aid to the city and to its schools, and also killed the proposed ARC tunnel that would have generated local revenue, pretty much gutting the local economy. While Christie opposes the so called “millionaires’ tax” because it would impact small business owners, he hijacked Urban Enterprise Zone money for a whole year – funds that mostly benefit small businesses in urban areas of the state. With the excuse that Homestead Rebates were a political trick, Christie eliminated them entirely for the whole of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011, and entirely eliminated them for renters – significantly impacting senior citizens, another group his tax reforms are supposed to help.
Christie also claims that New Jersey residents pay the most taxes of any state in the nation, and he’s right. But according to federal figures, New Jersey is also the wealthiest state in the U.S., making it ineligible for many federal dollars that have to be made up locally.
At the same time, Christie appears to be more concerned with reducing the spending of local government than spending on a state level, according to several local officials – who do not want to incur Christie’s wrath by speaking too openly. Many of the fees and regulations local businesses must comply with are imposed by the state.
Although Christie did get some heat from Republican areas of the state for proposing to limit the salaries of school superintendents, the most negative impacts of his proposals since being sworn in have been on urban – thus Democratic – areas like Hudson County. And yet, some mayors in Hudson County are embracing them – partly because those mayors who play along with Christie may get something out of it.
Redistricting is key to Christie strategies
While some believe that the redistricting of state legislative districts will not pit state Senators Brian Stack and Nicholas Sacco against each other by putting both of them into one district, both senators are preparing for the worst, and have begun to gear up for what some are calling a nightmare for Hudson Democrats.
Christie has clearly targeted Sacco – partly because Sacco with his three government positions symbolizes everything Christie sees as an abuse of power – but also because hemming in Sacco would do a lot to crippling the Democratic Organization in Hudson County, and a war between Sacco and Stack would keep Sacco from sending troops to help besieged Democrats in Bergen County.
More likely, the redistricting committee will slice large sections of Sacco’s territory in Democrat-rich Hudson County, such as adding Jersey City Heights to Stack’s district, and put Secaucus and the West Hudson towns into an Essex County district. This will weaken Sacco, who will be forced to do battle in a district with a larger Republican base in Bergen and perhaps Passaic counties.
The change would also help Christie get a firmer grip on Jersey City, with the northern portion of the city under the thumb of his ally Stack, and the southern portion controlled by his close friend, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham.
While rumors claim Cunningham will be denied the Democratic line on the primary ballot next June, insiders say no one is willing to mess with her and that she has actually become a stronger state Senator than anybody could have predicted. Are Democrats in Hudson County willing to split the party by denying her the line at a time when it is clear the party is under attack from a Republican governor?
Meanwhile, even local Hudson County Republicans are beginning to feel renewed, with a strong young group in Hoboken and a batch of possible strong candidates. Some believe that Juan Perez, who ran for sheriff this year as a Republican, will make a return next year as the Republican candidate for state Assembly in the 31st district.