New Jersey has an unfunded pension liability of over $41 billion. To “balance” the budget (as the state constitution requires), Christie is doing what his spendaholic predecessors have done: He is pretending that he is not required to make the state’s full pension payment. (What do you suppose would happen to a CEO in a private-sector, SEC-regulated business who tried that?) He has skimped on more than $5 billion — money he is spending on government programs (or, as he puts it, “core services”). The pension bomb is kicked down the road, to explode on some future governor, who will have to make the tough choice Christie is ducking: pay the mounting debt, slash pension benefits, or drastically cut other spending.
Christie also claims to have “balanced” the budget without raising taxes. That is true only insofar as income taxes are concerned. But the real problem in Jersey is property taxes. They are among the highest in the country and have risen sharply on Christie’s watch. To be fair, Christie was right to slash state rebates that lessened the pain: Property taxes are a local issue, and the rebates effectively subsidized the out-of-control municipal spending. By reducing the rebates, Christie appropriately encourages property owners to rein in their local governments. That’s as it ought to be. Moreover, as Glyn notes, Christie got the legislature to cap local property-tax increases at 2 percent — not exactly a boon to home owners who need tax decreases, but better than we were doing under Christie’s predecessors. But it is disingenuous to tell homeowners who are paying more that their taxes haven’t been raised. And it is irresponsible to pretend, as Christie does, that New Jersey can reduce taxes and achieve fiscal sanity without paying down its mushrooming debt and radically slashing the size and scope of government.
Truly laughable is Glyn’s claim that Christie’s response to Obamacare shows he is a “consistent conservative.” Unlike Republican governors across the country, Christie declined to sign New Jersey onto the multi-state lawsuit against the “Affordable Care Act” (now being weighed by the Supreme Court). His handwringing about needing more time to study the 2,000-page statute and being reluctant to expend state funds on the suit were insincere: Christie is an accomplished lawyer, the issues are well known, and the filing fee would have set the state back by only $1,000.
The dirty little secret is that Christie is an Obamacare enthusiast — which is no doubt why he so staunchly defends Romneycare.