In May, the Des Moines based National Pork Producers Council (NPCC) contacted governor Christie and instructed him to not let the bill become law. The bill to ban the inhumane caging of pregnant sows passed the New Jersey legislature overwhelmingly in the spring, by votes of 60 - 5 in the Assembly and 29 - 4 in the state Senate.
The 2' x 7' cages for breeding sows are too narrow to permit the animals to turn around freely. They are widely regarded as inhumane confinement. Supporting the assembly and Senate vote, a survey of New Jerseyans (Mason-Dixie) has 91% in favor of ending the practice, 4% opposed.
Christie vetoed the bill in June. Two months later, he vetoed 3 gun-control measures, one he had first proposed himself — after the lobby group Pro-Gun New Hampshire sent warnings they were watching him on these bills. (More info on the gun vetoes here.)
Increasingly, Christie will govern with an eye to Iowa and New Hampshire, instead of his own state interests.
Yesterday's poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed 59% for Christie and 40% for Buono, a 19 point spread. The numbers show a significant stride for Buono in the last month, but not closing in fast enough for the time that is left.
Before conceding the race run by state Senator Barbara Buono – a fierce fighter with low name recognition statewide – New Jerseyans should consider how Christie has been governing, and vetoing, this year. And how he has turned his sight already to conservative caucus-goers and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
You have to wonder if the voters in blue NJ are too scared to vote out their browbeating governor. If apathy and fear propel Christie to a wide-margin victory, Christie will be emboldened to launch his next bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
Certainly the state's largest circulation paper, the Newark Star-Ledger, was cowed by the huge shadow of Governor Christie.
Though billed as an "endorsement" for the incumbent over Democrat Buono, the Sunday editorial was blistering in its list of failures by Christie. Read for yourself:
Balance that against his measurable failures, and you have to conclude he is much better at politics than he is at governing.
The property tax burden has grown sharply on his watch. He is hostile to low-income families, raising their tax burden and sabotaging efforts to build affordable housing. He's been a catastrophe on the environment, draining $1 billion from clean energy funds and calling a cease-fire in the state's fight against climate change.
The governor's claim to have fixed the state's budget is fraudulent. New Jersey's credit rating has dropped during his term, reflecting Wall Street's judgment that he has dug the hole even deeper. He has no plan to finance transit projects and open space purchases now that he has nearly drained the dedicated funds he inherited.
... By removing two qualified justices from the Supreme Court without good cause, he threatened the independence of judges at all levels."
...And why should anyone believe taxpayers got the best price on refuse removal when the governor awarded a no-bid contract through a political friend?
Our own view is that Christie is overrated.
The tremulous, conflicted "endorsement" by the editorial board came after Christie snubbed the board for four years and refused to meet with its editors – a first for a governor from either party.
Should voters be complacent about property taxes hiked 13% in the last 3 years? (If the takeback of property tax rebates are counted in, then the increases are 18% over 3 years.)
Or how about the piddling job growth in NJ, next to its neighbors NY and PA. Only half the jobs lost in the recession have returned under Christie's tax and investment policies, dragging far behind the recoveries of NY and Pennsylvania.
Worst of all, his budget maneuvers the last few years amount to siphoning of funds and reserves "to keep the lights on in state buildings." The NY Times reports:
During the past two years, he took $175 million from the money paid to states to settle complaints of mortgage fraud, intended to help homeowners prevent foreclosure. (Nationwide, New Jersey has the second-highest percentage of homes in foreclosure.) Last year, he planned to take $166 million that towns were supposed to spend to build affordable housing. (The towns have sued to stop him, so the governor may have to fill an even bigger hole.)
Mr. Christie has been especially aggressive about taking funds dedicated to energy efficiency, to developing renewable energy and to reducing costs for rate payers. He has taken roughly $700 million in so-called clean energy funds, dumping most of that into the general fund, and using a smaller percentage to pay utility bills in state buildings.
That money came mostly from a "societal benefits charge" on ratepayers' electric and natural gas bills...
He has similarly drained money intended to fix the state's aging roads, bridges and public transit system. When he was elected, the Transportation Trust Fund, which for three decades has paid for capital improvements, was depleted. Mr. Christie rejected calls to raise the gasoline tax ....
He issued $4 billion in bonds, but said that to avoid future borrowing, he would increase the amount the state contributed toward the transportation trust fund every year. But when revenues came up shorter than his projections in 2013, he took the turnpike tolls intended for those contributions to the trust fund and used them to help balance the overall state budget. For fiscal year 2014, he again eliminated the planned payments.
In late 2012, the State Budget Crisis Task Force, a bipartisan panel led by Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, and Richard Ravitch, a former lieutenant governor of New York, warned that New Jersey's reliance on the one-shot practice had led to "structurally unbalanced budgets."
The report argued that the pension overhaul was in trouble: The state would have to come up with $5.5 billion a year in annual payments by 2018, and current budgets did not suggest where that money might come from....
"This pushes difficult budget choices off to future years and is ultimately unsustainable," the report said.
We've seen this playbook before. Deplete funds, keep taxes and spending unaligned, and let the bills come due years after you've left office.
Jersey voters need to look past bear hugs and endorsements by Shaquille O'Neal. Christie is "hostile" (as the Star-Ledger editorial wrote) not only to low-income taxpayers, but to most other taxpayers too.
KEYWORDS: Chris Christie
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