Tag Archive: Tom Kean

Christie’s Approach to Higher Education: Inaction and Kicking the Can

“Today, I am asking Governor Kean to conduct a critical review and assessment that will grow infrastructure, increase accessibility and promote excellence in New Jersey’s institutions of higher learning.” – Governor Christie – May 7, 2010

With the usual fanfare in May Governor Chris Christie signed Executive Order 26 establishing the New Jersey Higher Education Task Force. After having several weeks to review the Task Force’s recommendations, Governor Christie held a press conference on Tuesday. Christie’s response was not to help “grow infrastructure, increase accessibility, or promote excellence.” Rather, he simply put his own political signature on creating a Higher Education Council (Executive Order 52), and then kicked the can down the road by indicating the state can not afford additional investments in education now and by forming yet another advisory committee to develop recommendations for graduate medical education (Executive Order 51). He then diverted attention from the report by calling for passage of his own education “tool kit” proposals.

After all the effort of Tom Kean and his fellow members, we are left wondering why Christie established the task force in the first place, and what commitment if any he has to this cause. And we can also wonder about the timing of the press conference and whether it was designed to divert attention from his abdication of responsibility during the recent snow storm.

Tom Kean’s approach was to empower a new council and a Higher Education Secretary to take on more leadership. The Council Christie created is to consist of five members, all appointed by him and reporting to him, and meeting as infrequently as 4 times a year. Christie so far has shown no interest in appointing a Secretary to this long vacant position.

The Task Force pointed out that New Jersey has the fewest post-secondary seats per high school graduate (page 138) and the lowest state appropriation in Higher Learning (page 126) than any other state. These long-known pressing concerns the governor ignored.

Christie fancies himself an expert on graduate medical education because of his prosecutorial intervention into UMDNJ affairs. However, his only action was to call for the third study of this matter via an advisory committee with an extremely broad mandate encompassing hospitals, medical schools, nursing schools, UNDNJ, Rutgers and even NJIT.      

His press release following receipt of the task force’s report spent almost as much space on promoting his Tool Kit as it did on the report itself. Hopefully the Legislature will pay more attention to the report’s recommendations.

Quote of the Day: Funniest Man in New Jersey Edition

Some days I’m just happy Star-Ledger exists if only to transcribe conversations between governors emeritus Tom Kean & Brendan Byrne. As very often happens, Gov. Byrne makes the slapshot:

Q: Gov. Christie and Lt. Gov. Guadagno were both out of state when the blizzard hit this week. Should an effort be made to have at least one of our executives in-state at all times?

BYRNE: I never thought we needed a lieutenant governor, but we’ve got one, so we have to live with it. And maybe living with it means we need to anticipate what’s coming up. Still, (then-Acting Gov. Stephen) Sweeney has done a masterful job.

KEAN: Luckily, we had no big problems as a result of the storm. But, like any corporation, either our No. 1 or No. 2 person should always be on duty.

BYRNE: I think 30 inches of snow is a big problem.

KEAN: I meant we didn’t have any major problems beyond the snow. … nothing that would have required the presence of the governor.

BYRNE: Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

Budget Cap Agreement Press Conference

Governor Chris Christie, LG Kim Guadagno, and Senate President Steve Sweeney have just finished a press conference to announce an agreement on the property tax cap agreement reached this afternoon. Also at the podium were Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. and Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce.

Update: NJN’s feed of today’s announcement is now up & viewable.

Notably absent was Speaker Sheila Oliver, who all day via a spokesman signaled her distance from the agreement, including a release today saying she was “not part of any closed door deal.” In fact, to a reporter’s question about the Speaker’s absence from the kumbaya moment – if indeed it really was one – the Governor said she had left the state house.

The agreement, announced at the Governor’s office, is being called a “hard cap,” but there are exemptions: health care costs, pension costs, debt service and capital expenditures, and emergency allocations. I’m also told that increase in school enrollment is exempt. Local voters can overturn and exceed the cap by 50% plus one vote – a simple majority vote.

Here’s the way they’re going to get there: Sweeney’s own 2.9% cap legislation, the already passed S-29, will be the starting point. There will be a conditional veto of that by the Governor and the rate will be statutorially capped at 2%. Sweeney will post the Governor’s conditional veto for a vote in the Senate on Thursday, July 8.

Local officials who budget beneath the cap would be able to “bank” the difference for three years. All other exemptions in the current 4% cap law would be eliminated under the new legislation.

An avalanche of press releases began arriving even before the press conference ended, with the jubilant Republicans definitely speaking out first. I’ll post some of the statements in Comments, below.

Speaker Oliver will apparently be meeting with her caucus. Nobody wants to infer more drama than there actually already has been. But I imagine there may be shoes yet to drop.  

Timely v. Immediate: What a difference a Governor Makes

Tom Kean Jr. was a frequent critic of the Corzine administration, particularly on the issue of transparency. But he seems to have taken a healthy dose of patience now that his man is in the Governor’s office. Let’s hop in the way back machine:

Consider 2008, when then-Gov. Jon Corzine created a nonprofit organization to promote his signature plan to pay down state debt through higher tolls. Kean (R-Union), the Senate minority leader, urged the Democratic governor to “immediately” disclose information about donors to “Save Our State NJ Inc.,” saying it should be made public before the Legislature voted on Corzine’s plan.

Corzine’s effort never got off the ground, but they still disclosed who supported the effort. Now back to today:

So The Auditor wondered how Republican Kean felt about “Reform Jersey Now,” the nonprofit launched last week by leading Republicans and allies of GOP Gov. Chris Christie to support Christie’s agenda. It is structured exactly the same as the group that pitched Corzine’s plan.

“The leaders of Reform Jersey Now should voluntarily follow Gov. Christie’s continued commitment to a more transparent Trenton in a timely manner,” Kean said. But he declined to say exactly how “timely” it should be.

Hopeful wrote about the Governor’s new pay to play organization last week. I’m guessing a timely manner means no time soon, I’m sure it’s longer than immediate. Clearly contributions to support Governor Christie aren’t as important as those to Corzine. Way to be consistent Junior.  

Gone With the Wind

I guess I am cynical, but Governor Tom Kean’s lamenting a lost age of bi-partisan civilty in his childhood reminds me of nothing so much as our Southern aristocrats lamenting the loss of their “chivalrous” antebellum society.  

You’ll notice that at the heart of it is Kean’s love of his lost childhood, being raised as the son of a Congressman in a long line of elected officials. How wonderful it was when his father could be endorsed by other powerful officials out of “friendship.” I bet that lovely tradition never hurt Tom Kean Sr. or Tom Kean Jr. Kean’s outrage comes when he considers that voters might (gasp!) vote against someone who’s already made it in to the club. Why, how could Republican voters even think of not re-electing Senator McCain, the son of Admiral McCain, the son of Admiral McCain? It’s enough to make me cry. I certainly broke into tears when I learned Governor Hughes’s stepson lost a primary to get his father’s post.

The reality is that no one under the age of 40 can remember the days of self-identified Liberal Republicans, so the era of bipartisan voting is long gone. Whether the new era in which the parties are aligned by political beliefs, instead of being jumbled by different regional traditions related to the Civil War, works well or not remains to be seen. But Kean shouldn’t worry too much. The Keans, Bushes, Kennedys, and Frelinghuysens will keep their power, and that’s what “civility” was really about.  

Christie plays the Kean card in his latest TV ad

The Christie campaign has Tom Kean Sr. in their latest ad talking about how Chris Christie and New Jersey are perfect together:

It’s not really anything new from the Christie campaign, just a different person saying it in front of the camera. They’re banking more on the messenger being the selling point because the message continues to lack any substance. Christie said that Kean will be out there campaiging with him on the trail next week. They seem to be hoping his popularity rubs off on Christie, do you think it will work?

Kean shills for Christie while Byrne debunks the spin

Check out this exchange from former Governors Kean and Byrne talking about the loan controversy and subsequent resignation of Michele Brown:

Q: Will the resignation of first assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown put to rest the unreported loan Chris Christie made to her, or does her resignation raise more questions?

BYRNE: I think it raises more questions. The Brown situation has been trivialized by Christie. Now this lady resigns you can’t trivialize it anymore.

KEAN: It’s sad. This is a public servant whose work has been praised by everybody from people serving now in the Corzine administration to people outside government. The fact that she felt she had to resign is sad. I think the governor – or maybe his campaign people – should be ashamed. The only people who are happy today are the crooks she helped put in jail. This was a case of taking politics one step too far.

BYRNE: Tom, you’re good at this. You take an issue that Christie created and make it the Democrats’ fault. That’s a successful formula, and you’re good at it.

KEAN: This is not a successful formula for anything. We need a good governor and good people in the prosecutor’s office. That Michele Brown was hounded out of office by unscrupulous campaign operatives because she sought a loan to save her home when her husband was out of a job is outrageous. Nobody has criticized her or her work except those convicted of major crimes.

BYRNE: There you go again, Tom, taking something Christie did and blaming the Democrats.

KEAN: Having compassion for a friend and co-worker and helping them save their home is something he should have done – and we would have done it also.

BYRNE: Yes, and reported it.

KEAN: I don’t think everyone knows you’re supposed to report interest on a loan to a friend. When he found that out he corrected it.

BYRNE: Are you just the honorary chairman of his campaign? You’re doing a good job.

Byrne is exactly right.  Christie created this issue by not reporting the loan and filing it in the first place. The issue wasn’t uncovered by the Democrats, it was first reported by NJN. Then the NY Times followed up with news that it wasn’t filed on ethics reports and the Star Ledger reported the lack of filing for tax purposes. And for those who want to say the media is biased, the facts laid out in these stories haven’t been disputed. Instead, Christie and his supporters are trying to deflect attention from this latest self inflicted wound. For Christie, the buck always stops with someone else because it’s one set of rules for him, another set for the rest of us.

The First Lieutenant Governor: The Republican Stable

As the final weeks of the Republican primary unfold, Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan will be busy campaigning, trading criticisms of one another, and making the case on the air waves and the internet that they alone are best suited to take on Jon Corzine in this November’s gubernatorial election.

Corzine, and whoever wins the GOP nomination on Primary Day, will also undertake the historic task of selecting an individual to run as their respective party’s candidate to be the first Lieutenant Governor in New Jersey history.  Below the fold is a list of ten possible Republican contenders.  It is subjective and, more than anything, written to solicit the opinions of Blue Jersey readers on the strengths and weaknesses of each potential pick.  

Please click the headline, read on, comment away, and look out this Thursday for an analysis of potential Democratic choices for Lieutenant Governor.

Kean & Byrne discuss the Governor’s race

Here is a video version of the Kean-Byrne dialogue from NJ Voices over at the Star Ledger where the former Governors discuss the upcoming race.  Editor Fran Wood led the discussion:

Byrne says Jon Corzine should stay in office. “This is a governor who is getting us through the shoals of tough economic times,” he says.

Kean disagrees: “Jon Corzine is a nice guy. But four years is enough.”

They went back and forth on the borrowing that has been done and who was responsible for it with Byrne pointing to the Whitman administration for their share of the blame. Byrne talked about the similarities to his own re-election situation back in 1977. Here’s the video:

“What would you cut instead?”

This should be the immediate response to republican critics like Tom Kean and Chris Christie, the “Jersey Jindal”, as well as the myriad of republican Assemblymen (and women) that think it is only their job to (as Christie said specifically) “criticize the Governor’s budget”.

Well, if that is the case, then I guess the current Governor will have to continue being the responsible adult who understands he has to make tough choices when the NJ (and national) economy is at its worst point in decades.  And that is how it needs to be framed – especially when republicans haven’t offered up a shred of anything detailed, specific or even the least bit thought out when it comes to how they would envision a budget.

Kean doesn’t want funding for the arts cut.  Well, neither does Corzine.  Christie wants government waste cut.  So does Corzine, who is cutting government waste substantially.  Other republicans criticize the property tax rebates (many of which were kept in tact).  And guess what, so does Corzine.  

It’s interesting that a former Governor like Kean would come out and say that this was about “electoral politics” – as he couldn’t be further from the truth while at the same time being right on point.  The only thing “electoral politics” related is what Jason Springer says below.  

This is about tough choices – none of which are good ones.  But when you have to choose between “bad” and “worse”, the better option is “bad”.

And no matter how “bad” some think that Corzine’s proposed budget is, not proposing anything and just random criticizing without any thought as to what an alternative plan would be is certainly “worse”.

If republicans, especially prominent ones like Christie or Kean are going to criticize Corzine’s budget and cuts – let them step up and be responsible adults as well.  Let the state know specifically what you would cut instead.

For a former Governor and a Governor wannabe, these two should know better.  And should be ashamed at their transparent pandering and whining.