March 21, 2010

THE TEMPLATE FOR '10:

New Jersey: A Blue State Deep in Debt Rethinks What’s Important (DAVID M. HALBFINGER, 3/19/10, NY Times)

[W]hat’s most surprising about New Jersey is how in such a blue, labor-dominated state, Democrats and union members seem to be cracking under the pressure of the state’s tax burden, revealing a kind of split-personality disorder.

The syndrome surfaced last summer during Mr. Christie’s campaign, when he vowed to bring New Jersey’s property taxes, the nation’s highest, under control. As a candidate he saved his sternest threats for the teachers’ and state workers’ unions, whose healthy pay and benefits packages, he argued, were slowly strangling the schools and running the state’s finances into the ground. Union members, state workers and teachers, it turned out, weren’t offended by his rhetoric. In fact, public opinion surveys showed they ate it up.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Poll, said the surprising reactions were a reminder that Democrats and union members are also home owners, job seekers and parents — and that things have gotten so bad that even they might be willing to swallow some tough medicine and embrace once-unthinkable policies.

“They’re property tax payers, too,” Mr. Murray said. “People are willing to take cuts in programs that they think do good things, but they think we simply can’t afford.”

While Democratic governors have mostly closed deficits with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, Mr. Christie’s insistence on doing less with less puts him shoulder-to-shoulder with red-state governors like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Haley Barbour in Mississippi, ambitious conservatives like Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota, and his fellow newcomer in Virginia, Bob McDonnell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2010 7:05 AM
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