Since neither the Giants, the Jets nor the Eagles are in the play-offs, we can concentrate on the politics of this past week.
Last Monday, the Senate leadership held a pre-State of the State press event, outlining the unaddressed issues in New Jersey. We talked about our 9.6% unemployment rate, virtually the same as when Mr. Christie took office. We pointed out that too many of New Jersey’s homeowners are suffering from a 7% foreclosure rate, the nation’s second highest. Disturbingly our poverty rate has grown to more than 11%.
Last Tuesday, the Governor delivered his “State of the State” address. He celebrated the resiliency of New Jersey residents as they have come through the immediate crisis of Hurricaine Sandy. We join him in that celebration, and we in the Legislature will continue on a bi-partisan road to help heal and rebuild.
But that in no way changes the reality of our other issues. We also have to talk about medicaid expansion (a no-brainer) and access to health care which some of those same folks suffering from the outcome of Sandy will also need. What are the Governor’s plans to implement the Affordable Care Act? What are his plans to get the Path trains up and running to their former capacity? What is his jobs program, since he vetoed the package the Legislature sent him?
Does he have any ideas to contribute to the “national conversation” on gun safety? Will he do anything to move that important conversation beyond talk? Will he finally acknowledge that his rosy revenue estimates were just that…”too rosy”, and New Jersey is now facing a budget shortfall. Or will our Governor continue to try to deflect criticism by going after the well respected state Budget Officer. Will he continue to fight an increased tax on the “more than millionaires” in our state after raising taxes on the working poor? Will he continue to be a willing foot soldier in the national Republican war on women’s access to reproductive freedom?
As we raise these issues, Governor Christie continues riding his wave of popularity. He was a great face for us during the height of the Sandy crisis. He was a terrific communicator for all of us. But we must continue raising the issues and hopefully, the national media will follow our New Jersey press and start calling attention to the realities we are facing.
The Governor’s hypocrisy has been well covered here in BJ. Particularly his remarks about President Obama being a good leader during the storm, but how the President must be judged on the rest of his leadership. Contrast this to the Governor’s statement that Sandy has wiped the slate clean for him! And while you’re doing that, just contrast his State of the State speech to the one delivered by Governor Cuomo the very next day.
I think when this Governor is graded for his first term in office, the people and the national media should also talk about the grand mistakes of his administration. Remember the “Race to the Top” which cost our schools $400 million? How about the more recent issues around NJ Transit and the choice to put the trains in a low lying area which the Governor characterized (and the millions that will cost our taxpayers) as “everybody makes mistakes”. Or how about that we have no new second tunnel, our bridge tolls are sky rocketing, and we don’t even have the money which had been set aside for the tunnel. So much to talk about, so let’s get to it.
A few more things needing comment: Yes, we need to join together behind a progressive clear talking Governor candidate. If that is Senator Barbara Buono, we will quickly do that. However this puzzle is finally assembled, it will be soon, and I look forward to that.
And in closing……
A personal note to Mayor Booker: I had hoped you were going to be our candidate this year. But when you decided against that move, you agreed you would be working hard to elect whoever that person will be, and to help us put a Democrat back as Governor. So stop the U.S. Senate distraction, give Senator Lautenberg the time to concentrate on getting us federal Sandy help and the respect of making a decision about his re-election in his own time. You are a visionary thinker and a great orator, but New Jersey and our residents are really bigger than whatever your future is to be. So join the fray and tell those folks who watch those national shows what really needs to be addressed in our great state. We need your voice for economic justice, for civil rights and marriage equality, for jobs and gun safety, for women’s health, and for the economic realities in our state under this Governor.
So we do have much to be thankful for; much to be proud of; great residents to fight for; and many wonderful people who aspire to leadership in our party. May all of them and all of us enjoy a very happy, peaceful and healthy new year.