NJ For Change

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

'Hold Me Accountable'

Jon Corzine has been governor of New Jersey for 100 days. Not really long enough to judge his performance, but long enough to have learned something about his priorities and the direction his leadership will take the state. Corzine made a number of major campaign promises and when sworn into to office said “hold me accountable". One hundred days in and people are doing just that.

The Quinnipiac University poll released today shows Gov. Corzine’s overall approval rating at 35% and on his handling of the state budget, only 31% approve. A comparison between candidate Corzine and Governor Corzine may help to explain why public has turned against him.

Budget and Taxes

Campaign promises: Corzine said he would rein in government spending; put the state's fiscal house in order by eliminating budget gimmicks and borrowing; proposed economic growth initiatives that would eliminate the need for tax hikes.

Quotes: "I don't think we have to raise taxes," at a Gannett New Jersey editorial board on Oct. 5. "The time of one-shot budget fixes is past. It's time to balance the books," in his Jan. 17 inaugural address. "Economic growth should be the engine to expand revenues, not taxes," in his budget address, March 21.

What happened: Proposed the largest budget increase in nearly 20 years at 9.2%. Has proposed raising taxes by $1.5 billion: sales tax increase from 6% to 7%, plus tax increases on alcohol, cigarettes, luxury cars, water and hospital beds. "One-shot" budget fixes total $500 million. Corzine avoided increasing the gas tax. Instead he added $6.4 billion in borrowing for a five-year transportation plan. The debt will cost $18 billion in the long run, and lawmakers will still have to come up with a long-term funding plan.

Property Taxes

Campaign promises: The Corzine 40% in 4 property tax relief plan - restore property tax rebates to 2004 levels and increase them 10% for four years; address long-term reform with a special session of the Legislature, a constitutional convention, or both.

Quote: "We have a serious, serious problem . . . with regard to property taxes, and it's more than just relief, it is real reform, and I intend to tackle that," on Nov. 9, the morning after he won election.

What happened: Rebates will not be restored and increases are limited to a 10% increase or about a $35 increase for most homeowners. The budget also holds funding for schools and municipalities flat, putting more pressure on local property taxes. No call for a special session of the Legislature or a constitutional convention.

Government Ethics

Campaign promises: Corzine said he would create an elected comptroller to oversee state finances, strengthen the State Ethics Commission, ban pay-to-play at all levels of government and end "wheeling," which lets political power brokers shift campaign funds around the state.

Corzine quotes: "I call on all my fellow public servants to join in an historic effort to end the toxic mix of politics, money and public business, at every level of New Jersey government," in his Jan. 17 inaugural address.

What happened: Corzine expanded ethics rules to make more people file financial disclosure forms and his budget includes steps to end pension some abuses. The statewide reforms, however, have not occured.
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