Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Chris Christie won...

In a nutshell, this is why Chris Christie defeated N.J. Gov. Jon S. Corzine:
  • Taxes -- Jon Corzine didn't address the property tax burden during his tenure, even after raising sales and income taxes. New Jersey manages to have high sales, income and property taxes. This is sending the middle class to the exits and has stifled job creation in the state.
  • Corruption -- If Attorney General Anne Milgram made a significant arrest for municipal corruption outside Atlantic City, Chris Christie's big advantage would have been blunted. Arrests in Atlantic City don't count in this category. Mr. Magoo can spot municipal corruption there. You can set your calendar by elected Atlantic City officials being indicted.
Jon Corzine's a decent man with good intentions. I'd like to have him as an uncle. However, the Star Ledger precisely summed up his role in NJ politics and the state's Democratic Party: "Corzine is the chaplain on a pirate ship, not really its captain." He wasn't beholden to the power brokers in state government, since he paid for his own campaigns. However, the party bosses -- at least the ones out of legal trouble -- still hold a lot of power. Corzine ceded a lot of authority to them.

Chris Christie won a tarnished trophy in this election. He's going into the Governor's office in January with a projected $8 billion budget deficit, a rotten business climate, and Democrats controlling the legislature. Most NJ resident's disagree with Christie's conservative social views (anti-abortion), but this was an electon primarily about pocketbook issues. He's pledged to lower taxes, but has been scant on details about how to pay for tax cuts. The legislature holds the purse strings and I don't see them crafting budgets that will cut urban aid, education or health care. I'm expecting a standoff in the next budget cycle and would not be surprised if there is a government shutdown. Corzine had a standoff against the legislature in 2006 and they're in the same party. Christie has much more different budget priorities that appeal to his suburban backers than the Democrats. His interests might be best served if he provoked a budget fight and shut down state offices. The public might realize that the world won't end just because Trenton is idled for a few weeks.