The Trenton Thunder
There’s something bracing about New Jersey’s new governor.
The Wall Street Journal calls it “Reaganism with a Jersey twist”:
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. …
In some ways, Mr. Christie can speak bluntly precisely because the state is such a mess. Indeed, that’s one reason he won election in a blue state. The challenge remains daunting: No governor has yet succeeded in turning around a state as overtaxed and overspent as New Jersey. Indiana under Gov. Mitch Daniels probably comes closest, but Indiana was not nearly as bad as New Jersey.
If he is to survive the headlines about budget cuts and pull New Jersey back to prosperity, Mr. Christie knows he needs to put the hard choices before the state’s citizens, and to speak to them as adults. He’s doing just that. One reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger summed up Mr. Christie’s rhetoric this way: “[F]inally we have a governor who is as teed off as the rest of us at how government spending and taxes have skyrocketed over the past decade.”
It’s far too early to declare Mr. Christie’s Jersey-style Reaganism a success. But it’s the one reality show truly worth watching.
Actually, there’s a bit of American history: California had to get into so bad a fix that the Democrats were budgeting twelve months of spending to fifteen months of revenue just before Reagan was elected governor. That’s how you end up with conservative governors of liberal states.
George Will is writing columns calling Christie “The Trenton Thunder” –
There are 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey, but in November Christie flattened the Democratic incumbent, Jon Corzine. Christie is built like a burly baseball catcher, and since his inauguration just 13 weeks ago, he has earned the name of the local minor league team — the Trenton Thunder.
He inherited a $2.2 billion deficit, and next year’s projected deficit of $10.7 billion is, relative to the state’s $29.3 billion budget, the nation’s worst. Democrats, with the verbal tic — “Tax the rich!” — that passes for progressive thinking, demanded that he reinstate the “millionaire’s tax,” which hit “millionaires” earning $400,000 until it expired Dec. 31. Instead, Christie noted that between 2004 and 2008 there was a net outflow of $70 billion in wealth as “the rich,” including small businesses, fled. And he said previous administrations had “raised taxes 115 times in the last eight years alone.”
So he closed the $2.2 billion gap by accepting 375 of 378 suggested spending freezes and cuts. In two weeks. By executive actions. In eight weeks he cut $13 billion — $232 million a day, $9 million an hour. Now comes the hard part. …
In the state that has the nation’s fourth-highest percentage (66) of public employees who are unionized, he has joined the struggle that will dominate the nation’s domestic policymaking in this decade — the struggle to break the ruinous collaboration between elected officials and unionized state and local workers whose affections the officials purchase with taxpayers’ money.
The wages of that fight? Well, there is a poll out there putting Christie’s approval rating at 33%.
Still, I like his attitude: ”You don’t like the job I’m doing, vote for someone else next time.“
I’m not sure I believe that poll is accurate. As a momentarily worried Allahpundit at Hot Air points out, Rasmussen has him at 53% approval — not great, but as good as you’re going to get in a deep blue state for a governor who is doing the necessary work of confronting the public sector unions.
If he can ride that bus to re-election in 2013 somehow — he seems to have mobilized fiscally conservative voters to defeat school budgets statewide, so there’s at least some purchase for this approach – expect to hear more things from and about this man.
Why do I think Christie has such an opening? Well, he’s media-friendly, he’s pushing conservatism, and he’s doing so in a liberal state. Moreover, he hasn’t made the sorts of compromises that, say, a Mitt Romney has, that would tar him nationally.
The last Republican governor who came to national prominence in that way was… well, you know who.
Still, Governor Christie, you’re going to have to show me the money.
Show me that you can make these budget cuts and convince New Jerseyites to re-elect you.
If you can do that, maybe we can look at hiring you to do the job nationally.