Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Jersey's Budget Blowout

Despite all the protestations by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine and legislators, the state remains in dire fiscal shape precisely because the Democrats in Trenton have studiously avoided having to make any tough decisions to curb the size of the state government and state spending.

The state now faces a $1 billion deficit, which is hundreds of millions above the figure thrown out just this week.
For months, Governor Corzine has been hinting at the need for such cuts as New Jersey grapples with the fallout from the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Officials previously acknowledged a deficit of at least $8 billion for fiscal year 2011 and $190 million for this fiscal year. The depth of the state’s current shortfall was not revealed until Wednesday.

“It is going to be a gut-wrenching experience,” said Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

The crunch has already led to a disagreement with Governor-elect Chris Christie, who has called for spending freezes. On Tuesday, the two men clashed over emergency funding for food banks and soup kitchens.

A Corzine spokesman on Wednesday said the governor still wants to seek help for hungry and needy residents.

“During these tough national economic times, many families are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes,” spokesman Robert Corrales said in a statement.

Corrales directed any questions about the state’s budget deficit to the Department of Treasury.

Through October, the state took in $412 million less than expected in income, sales and, most notably, corporate business taxes, according to a report the state Treasurer released Wednesday.
All the budget projections were wrong, and off by a wide margin. State spending remains out of control and despite the federal stimulus which masked the exorbitant state spending, the state still faces a gaping budget hole.

The fact that Corzine hinted at these problems - and did nothing - shows just how dysfunctional Trenton is and how feckless the Democrats have been. It also shows why Corzine was booted. Instead of showing leadership and curbing state spending to bring it in line with revenues, he did nothing. He only hinted at the problem, even as it unfolded in worse shape.

Moreover, it's not like you couldn't see this coming. The state economy has been in shambles and there was no sign of an economic recovery to justify the state spending and revenue projections. That too is on Corzine and the Democrats.

It will be up to incoming governor Chris Christie to fix this mess, because Corzine has been incapable of taking any steps to rein in spending.

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