Jersey Democrats Distance Themselves From Florio II
From today's OpinionJournal's Political Diary
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has never had much use for Republicans since he entered politics. But now that his budget plan is under assault from his fellow Democrats, he is belatedly reaching out to GOP state legislators asking for their help. The reaction to his appeals has been underwhelming, to put it mildly.
Mr. Corzine surprised fellow Democrats by proposing nearly $2 billion in tax increases almost immediately upon taking office in January. Democrats believe the tax hikes, which include an increase in the state sales tax to 7% from 6%, are premature and could damage the party's chances of keeping the legislature in 2007. They are also increasingly irritated by what they view as Mr. Corzine's hamhanded style of governance, especially his ill-fated attempt to end New Jersey's status as one of two states that still bans self-service gasoline stations. "Regardless of the merits, the move was sprung on people and all I heard for days was complaints," one Democratic legislator told me. "I had one grandmother call me several times to say she didn't want to have to deal with gasoline spilling on her." It didn't help that many voters instinctively suspect that Mr. Corzine, a multimillionaire former president of Goldman Sachs, hasn't pumped his own gas in years.
Mr. Corzine's tax proposals are encountering similar trouble. Wayne Bryant, a key Democratic state senator, says that rather than raise taxes, "We have to keep looking at ways to cut spending." Republicans who met this week with Mr. Corzine were similarly unenthusiastic about his tax plans. "We indicated politely that we don't support increasing the sales tax," said State Senator Leonard Lance, citing concerns it would hit businesses that compete with those in lower-taxed Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The clock is ticking towards a July 1 deadline for passing a budget. Mr. Corzine remains adamant that he can't make enough budget cuts to eliminate the need for higher taxes, but right now not enough legislators of his own party believe the political risk in voting for more taxes is worth it. Everyone remembers what happened to Governor James Florio, a Democrat who sprang higher taxes on the state upon taking office in 1989 and saw his party lose control of both houses of the legislature two years later. In 1993, voters finished the job by tossing out Mr. Florio and replacing him with Republican Christie Whitman.
-- John Fund