Calling for “shared sacrifice,” Governor Corzine made official what had been fodder for specualtion over the last two weeks.
In raw numbers it is a $29.8 Billion budget. $4 Billion less than last year. Corzine is definitely breaking tradition by not allowing an automatic increase in spending and actually decreasing the size of government. He says that hasn’t been done in 60 years. Of course his critics say that spending went up 10% during his first two years in office so it’s really a wash.
Many of the big proposals had already been leaked to the press and therefore debated in the public domain. That includes pay freezes and furloughs for state workers, taxes on wine and liquor and a one-time 3/4% tax on those earning above half a mil. Households at $75 k and above lose property tax rebates as well as deductions of those taxes from their income taxes.
Suburban representatives, particularly Republican Lawmakers say this will disproportionately affect the middle class. The Governor says this budget is about choices and many of his choices favor cities. For example, a modest reduction in muncipal aid – 2%, and increases in education funding.
A failure to infuse the Unemployment Insurance fund with $500 million will liekly result in a payroll tax which businesses say is the wrong idea at this time.
So, a couple of big questions remain…is this a budget favoring traditional Democratic constituencies? This is after all, an election year. Will voters in the suburbs come to the polls in enough numbers to demonstrate their anger over this by voting out the incumbent? We remember that New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office in 12 years.
There may be enough anger to go around which could mean that odds favor the Democrat. Then again, people do NOT like taxes. And if property taxes go up again they may look for someone to blame. The easiest person of course, is the guy at the top.
We may very well be in unchartered territory in terms of our weak economy. But can the Governor effectively explain that to the voters? He will have to justify that sense of shared sacrifice, and overcome perceptions that the “sacrifice” is only being asked of some.