Chris Christie's popularity soars as his budget declines
January 7, 2013By Rob Tornoe for NewsWorks
This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
New York City may be the home of Broadway, but here in New Jersey, we have our own Jekyll & Hyde in the form of Governor Chris Christie.
On the one hand, Christie seems like one of the only adults in a political party filled with petulant, bickering children unable to come together to solve the nation's problems. After Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, failed to post a $60 billions Hurricane Sandy relief bill, Christie went after his own party, blaming them for putting "politics ahead of their responsibilities" and causing storm victims "continued suffering."
Quickly, Boehner did an about face and caved under the intense pressure, and the House passed a $9 billion package for the national flood insurance problems. It will vote on January 15 for the remaining $51 billion Sandy relief package.
Even Bruce Springsteen should be impressed, right?
The irony of course is that while incidents like this make Christie seem like the only grown-up in the Republican Party, New Jersey faces it's own fiscal cliff largely based on the governor's delusional budgeting and adherence to trickle-down conservative dogma.
It was during last year's State of the State speech that Christie proudly proclaimed the "Jersey Comeback" had begun, and began his call for a ridiculous income-tax cut that would do little for most New Jersey taxpayers other than blow a hole a billion-dollars wide in the state budget. In fact, the whole plan still seems to me to be little more than a conservative checkmark for Christie's potential run for president in 2016.
In order to pay for the tax cut and make Christie's fragile budget balance, the governor ambitiously (or foolishly, depending on your point of view) projected 7.2 percent annual revenue growth in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012.
In reality, the state has collected $700 million less in taxes than Christie and his administration projected, and is on pace to have a $2 billion shortfall this fiscal year, blowing an unmanageable hole in the state's budget, which could effect everything from property tax relief to payment to the public employee pension fund. It could even hamper the state's ability to provide financial help to towns hit by Sandy, which would be ironic considering Christie's crusading stance against his own party for their inability to help those in need.
According to David Rosen, a budget and finance officer for the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (who Christie dubs the "Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers"), New Jersey needs "spectacular revenue acceleration to hit the Executive's budget targets." How spectacular? Nearly 12 percent growth over the remaining seven months of the budget. Considering revenues only grew 0.2 percent over the first five months, hoping for 12 percent growth might be a bit too optimistic.
And while Christie may blame the low numbers on Sandy and insist a revenue boost from reconstruction efforts is expected, the truth is there was a budget shortfall even before the so-called superstorm his our shores. According to the Asbury Park Press, the state started the budget year with a shortfall of $250 million, which has grown by $451 million in just five months.
So Christie may be playing the "I'm a responsible Republican" card as his poll numbers and fundraising skyrocket, but in reality his budget shows he's nothing more than an average politician - avoiding the big political fights and instead relying on band-aids and temporary fixes to push him through and onto the next level. Which means as long as Christie wants to be Mr. Hyde, it's up to us to endeavor to be Mr. Seek.
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.