Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Christie Has Trenton in a Tizzy

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is causing quite a fuss down in New Jersey right now by enacting the spending freeze that he talked about in the runup to his recent election. He's going after supposedly sacred things like education and union contracts, making him a villain in the eyes of some, but possibly saving the state from bankruptcy in the process.

I spent my first 17 years in the Garden State so I track it with more than a passing interest. Here are two things you need to know:

(1) New Jersey was for a time in the 1990s our country's wealthiest state per capita, but is no longer. In fact, NJ lost approximately $70b in total wealth from 2004-08 due to people escaping the state for a better tax climate elsewhere (many from the 'burbs outside of Philly have come over to the PA side, for instance). That includes retirees going south as well, but a lot of the loss is to neighboring states with less confiscatory policies. On the one hand, it's great to just say 'Eat the Rich' but the problem with that is that your tax base has to come from somewhere. People who work in NYC but want to live the suburban life have three states to choose from; those who work in Philly have two. If you lose all those people, you can forget about ALL the essential services you need; the very prospect of that should cost you a few winks at night regardless of whether you're a Republican, a Democrat, a Green, an Indy, or anything anywhere in between.

(2) The district of Asbury Park, NJ (which any Bruce Springsteen fan can find on a map, for sure), currently spends $24, 428 per pupil. (By way of comparison Phillips Andover is just a shade higher at $31k for day tuition). The story behind why that is involves a court decision which was probably made with the best intentions of redistributing wealth in order to provide more equal educational opportunities. But as anyone who has ever even stepped near a public school should know, if you really think those $24k are mostly going towards helping ACTUAL public schoolchildren, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you somewhere near the Bering Strait.

When I peer down I-95 to see what Gov. Christie is doing, it seems that he's willing to call some things out on the carpet for what they really are. If he can save one state from going over a cliff, he should be applauded for it.


C R Krieger said...

I escaped after 7th grade and after ten months in Pennsylvania made it to the Golden State.

But, like you I still have an interest and this is interesting and I will look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Regards  —  Cliff

Progressive Veterans said...

Does Phillips Academy have an endowment that may subsidize the costs of providing the education there?

Ya gotta figure the Alumni are pitching in.