The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
July 3, 2011
At least this time, the governor spared us the blather about shared sacrifice.
He will no doubt consider it class warfare to point out the obvious, that he favors the rich at every turn and seems to go out of his way to pound on the working poor.
And this time, he also seemed to channel Richard Nixon by sprinkling in a few vindictive cuts aimed at punishing those who dared to oppose him.
Yes, the governor will get his way on this. The Republican caucus is large enough to sustain his vetoes, and obedient enough to do so -- even when the cuts are outrageously unfair.
The worst of it concerns the working poor. It may come as a surprise to some, but most poor people in America do not rely on welfare; they work. The typical poor family is a single mother with children, working at a low-wage job. And in a high-cost state like New Jersey, they are hurting badly.
Last year, Christie took $45 million from their meager paychecks by reducing the earned income tax credit. This year, Democrats voted to restore that money, and now, Christie has vetoed that restoration.
He saves another $9 million by keeping working poor adults from joining the Family Care program, a move that will result in 23,000 losing care, a number that will grow each year. And he cut money from Legal Services Corp., which helps low-income families with legal problems, such as eviction or housing discrimination.
He cut money for AIDS drugs, family planning, mental health services, even an early intervention program for disabled children.
He cut money for the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, likely a punishment for the OLS support of Democrats in the dispute over revenue estimates. He cut a fellowship program run by Alan Rosenthal, the Rutgers professor who was the referee in the legislative redistricting fight and who sided with Democrats.
This is a mean and vindictive budget. The governor gave no ground to Democrats, despite the fact that leadership just reached across the aisle to support pension and health reform.
And don't believe it when the governor says he had no choice.
This is about priorities. The governor added $150 million in school spending for the suburbs, money that was not in the budget plan he submitted in February, and money that will go to even the wealthiest towns. That's enough to restore all these cuts, without raising the "millionaires tax."
The governor also left a relatively large surplus, double the size he proposed in February, and he rejected the revenue estimates of the OLS, whose numbers are historically the most accurate. Both those decisions made this budget harsher than it needed to be.
Democrats don't have the votes to stop this. But they plan to schedule roll calls on each of these cuts, as they should. If these are the priorities of Republican legislators, voters have a right to take down names.