"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Leadership Or More Of The Same

New Jersey has added 30,600 government jobs in the past two years - 13,500 in 2003 and 17.100 in 2004, exacerbating the state’s fiscal woes. You have to wonder how all these additional positions could be justified during a time of massive budget deficits and skyrocketing taxes. Nothing has changed in the state, population growth, etc. that would warrant the expansion of public employment and yet this is the fastest growing sector in our state’s economy.

Economists with the Rutgers Economic Advisory Service said in a recent report that the surge in public-sector employment was bigger than any other sector of the State economy. “This is one result of statewide deficit spending, and is one of the contributing causes to the endemic property tax problem in New Jersey,” the authors said.

New Jersey’s rapidly expanding government bureaucracy, far from being a sign of economic strength, can be viewed as a drag on growth because it is supported by rising state and local taxes, which robs businesses and consumers of spending power.
New Jersey’ government no longer answers to the taxpayers, but rather to organized special interests, with public sector employees being the most organized and vocal. Woe to the politician that seeks to rein in the growth of public sector employment in favor of economic growth and cost-effective government.

The tax receivers are organized and well represented, taxpayers are more numerous, but have yet to find a way to make their collective voices heard. We believe the Republican nominee for Governor should become the leader of a united and organized taxpayer movement. Republican candidates for the state’s assembly should provide similar leadership within their districts.

All candidates should decide if they wish to represent all citizens or powerful special interests. Political ambition is no excuse for pretending to be all things to all people. Voters need to make a choice in the voting booth and candidates should let us know who they chose to represent should they be elected - before we arrive at the voting booth.

We’re looking for leadership and representation in Trenton. What are the candidates offering? Let’s take a look at this recent example concerning the Republican gubernatorial candidate Douglas Forrester and two state assembly members, Bill Baroni and Linda Greenstein.

On Thursday, Forrester said he would lay off 6,000 government employees to generate $400 million of the $700 million he needs for the first year of his plan that calls for the state to reimburse homeowners 30 percent of their property taxes.

The Times, Trenton is reporting that Forrester backtracked yesterday on his plan to lay off 6,000 state workers to help pay for his property tax plan, saying the number could be less. Forrester's backtracking from his proposal to lay off state workers came after Assemblyman Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton, one of his earliest supporters, criticized the plan.

"I will not support layoffs of our public employees and I will fight anyone who does," said Baroni, who is running for re-election in the hotly contested 14th Legislative District, home to many government employees. "I have spoken to Doug Forrester and told him that under no circumstances would I support a plan that lay offs state workers."

Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein of Plainsboro, also criticized Forrester's plan to lay off state employees. "Forrester is somebody who can't be trusted when it comes to state workers and this is the person who Baroni has endorsed and continues to support," Greenstein said. "It's of great concern to me that Forrester would seek to harm hard-working state employees in my district."

She said Baroni's criticism of Forrester's plan does not go far enough. "He's on the right track, but he needs to go further," she said. "He needs to pull back his endorsement of Forrester."

Baroni said that criticism is unwarranted. "I cannot be held responsible for what Doug Forrester says, but I'm not going to agree with everything Doug Forrester says," he said. "He's my choice for governor, but if he is going to harm my constituents I have to look out for them and that's what I'm doing.
Is there a difference in position between Republican Assemblyman Bill Baroni and Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein on government spending? Both consider government employees to be their most important constituents, to be protected at the expense of all other taxpayers. Are there really more “hard working” state workers in Baroni and Greenstein’s districts than “hard working” taxpayers from other walks of life? We doubt it, but these lawmakers place the interests of government employees first because this group is organized and powerful.

Forrester, Baroni and Greenstein must be operating under the maxim; the first job of a politician is to get elected. The problem, cutting government spending and controlling the rate of future growth doesn’t get any easier once in office. If government worker salaries, benefits and jobs are untouchable, than it will be impossible to reduce or control state and local taxes. We can understand Greenstein’s position; she represents the party of more government and higher taxes. But how will Baroni differentiate himself from his Democrat challenger? Beats us.

As Republicans, Forrester and Baroni could have taken the position that they were not out to harm government employees, but will be fighting to protect and represent taxpayers, the people that make government jobs possible. Public employees that perform essential services should not fear layoffs, but apparently there are large numbers in this group that know if their jobs were eliminated tomorrow, no one but they would notice the difference.

Republicans should show leadership and stand up to those that block the way of responsible government spending. Educate voters, provide them with a clear choice and become the candidate taxpayers can rally behind. Caving in to special interests under the slightest pressure does not inspire confidence.

Leadership requires the capacity to set a course toward a goal, to clearly articulate how the objective can be achieved and then to draw others along the same path through persuasion, influence, and exhibiting the tenacity to stay the course.

The current path New Jersey is on is not sustainable. The Democrats have chosen Jon Corzine as their nominee for governor. He has outlined an agenda for more government spending, has a record of opposing tax cuts and offers citizens more of the same. Is that what the majority of voters want, more of the same? If so, the clear choice this November is Jon Corzine.

However, if people are looking for a leader to change New Jersey’s direction, one with a plan that will treat all citizens equally and one with the resolve to turn his plan into reality, who will they look to – Doug Forrester or Bret Schundler? That’s the choice Republicans will face in June’s primary.

We are afraid Forrester has painted himself into a corner by adopting a poorly conceived property tax reduction plan that attempts to paper over New Jersey’s problems. He has come up against the first obstacle to his plan and has blinked.

Virtually anyone would be better for the state than Corzine and Forrester fits that bill, but we believe Republicans can offer the people of New Jersey a better choice. Schundler has a vision and a plan for the state and he is not afraid to buck the special interests, even in his own party. That’s called leadership and that’s why Bret Schundler is our choice for the Republican nominee for Governor.


At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

Thoughtful, insightful, and ... well ... I completely agree. Bret really does offer NJ a chance at getting back on track AND isn't afraid to "buck the special interests." Keep up the good work ... and thanks.

At 4:03 AM, Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

I wish Forrester would not have backed off his originally-stated position. He appears to be worrying more about what politicians think than what the taxpayers think. If so, he's playing to the wrong audience.

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