Governor Chris Christie will deliver his annual budget address on Tuesday (February 22), and by all indications this will be a definitive test of political and electoral wills.
The Statehouse Bureau provided some perspective this morning. Of course, the quote mines are a veritable motherlode. This quote from Christie is the prize example:
Being called disgusting by Joe Cryan is high praise; if anyone should know disgusting it should be Joe Cryan.
This came after Assembly Democratic Floor Leader Joe Cryan held forth on the latest vetoes that Christie had issued: 14 bills in one day. According to Statehouse Bureau Correspondent Ginger Gibson, Christie characterized the package as “irresponsible” “political games[manship],” because they proposed to remove a few business taxes (but not to reduce any general rates), but did not propose any corresponding spending cuts.
Just [as] I vetoed continuing appropriation bills, I’m vetoing these tax cuts and incentive programs. We have to be consistent on this.
Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney immediately said that he would schedule overrides, saying that many of the measures passed with easy supermajorities, in some cases with 38 of the 40 total votes in the Senate. Sweeney has also said that he does not buy Christie’s repeated protestations of not running for President of the United States. The relevancy: Christie is now more prone to fight with the legislature, because it gives him good national press. Matt Friedmann quoted him thus:
He’s reading his clips more and more. He’s becoming much more arrogant. Really, it’s worked for him and it’s got him on the national scene where people are talking about president, so he’s gotten more brash.
Sweeney is correct to a point. Outside of New Jersey, Chris Christie has made his name a household name and a by-word for gubernatorial resistance to liberal-dominated legislatures. Inside New Jersey, the main criticism that Christie suffers is that he doesn’t go far enough. He has vetoed 41 bills thus far, and hasn’t lost an override vote yet. (One of them: the Corzine-lite Surtax, which Democrats still want to reinstate.) He canceled the ARC Tunnel, though both US Senators had lobbied for it, and virtually ignores the criticisms that Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (both D) level at him. Yet some have accused him of not proposing any truly deep cuts in the size and function of government. Still others want a dramatic confrontation with the New Jersey Supreme Court, in the context of the Abbott and Mount Laurel decisions, on the order of a similar confrontation that President Andrew Jackson had with the United States Supreme Court.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, the Senate still will not act, not only on the nomination of Anne M. Patterson to replace Associate Justice John E. Wallace, but also on more than 100 other nominations that Christie has made. (The Senate then passed a resolution saying that another Justice ought to resign immediately if he doesn’t face impeachment, when arguably he has done nothing for the Assembly to impeach him for. And the Assembly knows it, because they’re not planning to proceed.)
Add to it that 14 public-sector union contracts are up for renegotiation. Not a single eye can fail to turn to Madison, WI, in this connection. (And let the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners take note, in case any New Jersey physicians decide to “work the crowds” at a Statehouse protest, filling out fraudulent medical excuses for sick-calling teachers and other government employees.)
This fall, the voters will have the definitive chance to decide the issue. All 120 Senators and Assembly members will be up for re-election (in brand-new districts, that one hopes will not continue to look like bow ties and shoelaces). In addition (though this might be an empty threat), at least one Democrat in New Jersey has announced his intention to form a Committee to Recall Christopher J. Christie from the Office of Governor. He has not released the other two names that his committee would require, nor filed a Notice of Intention with the Secretary of State. But if 1.3 million voters are actually willing to sign recall petitions, then the voters might have a unique opportunity to vote on the governor and the entire legislature, not once but twice in two years.
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