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Gov. Christie’s Budget Priorities: Warped

Not One Word on Climate Change, Environment, Renewable Energy, Coastal Planning, Open Space, or Parks

Doubles Down on “Rebuild Madness” -  ”at maximum speed” - ”regardless of federal timelines”

Instead, Christie champions austerity, dismantling of government, and corporate welfare

 NJ has become a place where Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Opra, MTV, and Snooki drive policy

I feel compelled to offer a few words on Gov. Christie’s budget speech (full text here, for those who can stomach it)

The headline above pretty much sums up the lowlights, and for an expansion of that, read Tom Johnson’s article over at NJ Spotlight, see:

 Christie’s Spending-Plan Priorities Have ‘Green’ Community Seeing Red - Governor pays little attention to environmental issues while again tapping into clean-energy fund to help balance budget

Tom hits the nail on the head and adds important information not in the Gov.’s speech, but in his proposed budget, most disturbingly this:

there was not a word about what the state will do to combat climate change, only four months after the worst storm in 100 years devastated wide sections of the state’s coast.

Christie’s proposed budget once again raids a ratepayer-financed fund of $152 million used to promote energy efficiency and cleaner ways of producing electricity, steps clean-energy advocates say are vital to achieving the state’s aggressive goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Not that the move was unexpected. Since taking office, Christie already has tapped New Jersey’s clean-energy funds for more than $680 million, steps approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, to plug holes in the state budget.

This is astonishing and remarkably irresponsible - and actually a far worse policy than the far right wing climate change deniers.

The radical climate deniers are blocking progress - that’s bad enough, but Christie is dismantling existing effective programs. 

Christie would steal $832 million in clean energy money – in part to pay for $1.57 BILLION in tax subsidies to corporations, like Goldman Sachs.

That’s intolerable and the Democrats simply must restore those clean energy funds in the final budget they vote for.

There were a few other aspects of the speech that I thought hit new lows:

  • With former Gov.’s Byrne, Florio, and DeFrancesco present and staring him right in the face, he called them liars:

Those who were supposed to be responsible for controlling taxes and spending before we came to office fundamentally deceived the people of our state. They said yes to everything — yes to higher taxes. Yes to more spending. We must not return to that era of recklessness and deceit.

Gov. Byrne’s a fighting Irishman, but a little over the hill to take on our morbidly obese Governor.

But Jim Florio was a boxer in the Navy, still looks fit, and one would assume he’d like to kick Christie’ ass for that disgraceful smear.

  • Christie learned absolutely nothing and is repeating mistakes of the past. Instead, he doubled down on Sandy “Rebuild Madness”

The Governor’s remarks here are quite disturbing – I highlight the troubling text in boldface, and will break down their meaning for policy:

I want to make sure we can move ahead quickly, and without endangering resources for other key priorities.

So today, I am proposing the establishment of a $40 million Sandy contingency fund for those expenses not reimbursed by the federal government. This will ensure that we can move ahead with maximum speed, and that those things that fall through the cracks do not bankrupt families, businesses or local governments.

This will allow us to get small businesses back on their feet, without delay.

It will allow us to continue to make progress on restoring key roads and infrastructure, regardless of federal timelines.

It will help us rebuild the shore. I grew up going to the shore every summer, and I still do. It is the heart of New Jersey. It still beats strong, in every one of us.

The shore will come back — as I’ve said, it will come back stronger than ever. And I will tell you this: I expect to go the Jersey Shore every summer for the rest of my life, including this summer of 2013.

Here’s why those statements are so disturbing:

1. The rush to rebuild is driving out any policy discussion of climate change and planning for adaptation and coastal “resilience”. This cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

2. The Gov. is proposing to use state and federal relief money for GRANTS to business, presumably including lost profits. This is totally unacceptable when thousands of people are homeless, living in hotels, and critical natural resources are not restored. This cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

3. “Small business” is not defined – there are no policies, plans, or oversight of how “small business” assistance will actually be implemented. This cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

4. Christie’s policy of rebuild “at maximum speed” “regardless of federal timelinesis inconsistent with federal policy and may even violate federal regulations, thereby jeopardizing allocation of and timely and full receipt of federal money.

[Update 2/28/13 – Gov. Christie’s warning about risks of not qualifying for full FEMA reimbursements is exactly the risk the Gov. is taking by pursuing “Rebuild Madness”. I was at this Union Beach press conference where today’s APP quotes the Gov.:

“The risk is, as I said at the time, if you don’t use one of these companies who are experienced with dealing with FEMA paperwork and the FEMA bureaucracy, that if you don’t make your request right, you’re not going to get reimbursed,” Christie said.

This all cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

  • The continuing attacks on government are a disgrace

The Governor continued his ideological attack on government – he used the word “government” 20 times, perhaps his most frequently used word – and it was all attack, all the time:

Now, the results are clear. New Jersey has turned around, and is growing again.

What hasn’t grown is government. In fact, government has shrunk. Today there are 5,200 fewer state government employees than when we took office. In fact, there are over 20,000 fewer government employees across all levels of government. We promised smaller government to our people and we delivered.

Aside from the deep contradiction in the fact that the Governor’s favorable public opinion polls are driven – exclusively - by his use of government in responding to Sandy, there’s a much deeper and disturbing thing going on.

Christie didn’t talk about and may have rhetorically backed away from his controversial and unpopular privatization or deregulation policies. But he is quietly implementing those policies (e.g. see Christie Executive Orders on both, EO #2 on “regulatory relief” and EO # 17 on privatization.

There is loads of evidence that the Governor’s policies undermined the capacity of State government to prevent, plan for, and respond to Sandy, a storm that scientists and DEP experts had warned about for years, see:

This should be a huge scandal and prompt investigative media and legislative oversight.

But the Gov. has been given a pass on all that.

Even the scandal that was reported – the AshBritt politically connected no bid $100 million contract – has failed to note the fact that Gov. Christie was forced to rely on political connections to manage storm response because he reduced the priority of and dismantled States programs to plan and prepare for storm events.

Similarly, Christie has rhetorically backed away from his discredited “job killing red tape” attacks under Executive Order #3, but the policy fallout continues.

And in addition to all that, under Gov. Christie, NJ has become a place where Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah fund and drive education policy, not government.

Where MTV and Snooki fund and drive coastal protection policy, not government.

We are a national joke.

[End Note: why does no one call BS on the fact that this statement is internally contradictory: how can both Christie assertions be true at the same time: 1) The Affordable Care Act is bad for NJ; 2) I sign up for and accept ACA funding and base judgments based on what is best for NJ?

NY Times story:

“Let me be clear: I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act,” the governor said. “I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans.”

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  1. Bill Neil
    February 27th, 2013 at 14:08 | #1

    Today’s New York Times is reminding us that Governor Christie is pushing all out to make New Jersey a “player,” a big time player, in online gambling. Let’s be fair to the governor and give him credit for this noble and creative venture into good, solid entrepreneurship.

    And I noticed Bill, that Governor Whitman was not seated there at the Statehouse with the other formers. Let’s not forget Governor Whitman’s brilliant turn-around campaign tactic when she was 20 points behind Governor Florie heading into the fall of what was it…1993? Tax cuts, tax cuts across the board! I also recall her dipping into Wall Street’s wonderful bag of numerical juggling tricks: what was that mechanism that funded the state pensions of the day without having to raise new money? Didn’t the League of Women Voter’s specialist on the issue protest long and hard, saying it wasn’t what it appeared to be?

    Stepping back for the larger persepective Bill, this is a national trend of not facing the fact revenue cannot keep up with the costs of services that people want. The Right’s solution is not on the revenue side, it is to shrink the services and the role of government, to attempt to recreate capitalism in its early phases, leaving us all to wonder whether capitalism on its own, with a state (stabilizer?) shrunk to half its current size and more money freed up for investment (or is it speculation, gambling?) will deliver us the conservative “Market Utopia” that the Right is so anxious to get to.

    As you know Bill, I offered Maryland, based on one of its own studies on how to raise revenue, a reminder that it was taxing only 39 of 168 categories of “services.” Remarkably, some of the key ones not being taxed are politically powerful: advertising, financial services including accounting, legal services, repair services…indeed, the details were so sensitive that they were buried under broader categories…but the main point is that they offered additional annual revenues of $1.6-2.2 billion dollars. That’s not small change.

    The irony is that we are seen as the world’s leading economic pioneer and innovator, the most “modern” nation, one which made a transition to a more service led economy a long time ago…but haven’t, at the state levels, modernized the revenue categories. A leader in Maryland’s legislature told me that proposals to put these categories into the existing sales tax would never even be placed on the table. And I guess that’s why they used to call it the “political economy” in the old days, when capitalism was young. It sure isn’t aging gracefully.

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