Mr. Christie knows he needs to put the hard choices before the state's citizens, and to speak to them as adults.
Budgets are serious business, but it's been a long time since anyone in New Jersey has been serious about the budget. This year, gross mismanagement and accumulated fictions have left state taxpayers a $10.7 billion gap on a total state budget of $29.3 billion. Mr. Christie's answer is simple: "a smaller government that lives within its means."
However quaint that may sound, when you have to cut nearly $11 billion in state spending to get there, you are going to get a lot of yelling and screaming. Most comes from the New Jersey Education Association, hollering that "the children" will be hurt by Mr. Christie's proposals for teachers to accept a one-year wage freeze and begin contributing something toward their health plans. What makes the battle interesting is the way Mr. Christie is throwing the old chestnuts back at his critics.
Here are a few examples, culled from his budget address, public meetings and radio appearances:
The children will be the ones to suffer from your education cuts. "The real question is, who's for the kids, and who's for their raises? This isn't about the kids. Let's dispense with that portion of the argument. Don't let them tell you that ever again while they are reaching into your pockets."
Budget cuts are unfair. "The special interests have already begun to scream their favorite word—which, coincidentally, is my 9-year-old son's favorite word when we are making him do something he knows is right but does not want to do—'unfair.' . . . One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life, and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits—a total of $3.8 million on a $120,000 investment. Is that fair?"