When Governor Christie and Lt. Governor Guadagno took office just over a year ago, New Jersey’s reputation as a world leader in innovation, economic development and growth was at serious risk. At that time, New Jersey’s unemployment rate had reached 10%, its highest level in 33 years and the worst in the region. And that was just the beginning. The state’s business climate was ranked last in the nation for the fourth consecutive year, property taxes had risen an astonishing 70% over 10 years, and were expected to be matched by a 68% increase in local government spending. Independent analysts concluded New Jersey had the highest overall tax burden in the nation. Wealth, jobs and people were leaving New Jersey
The problems were extensive and deeply rooted
. Irresponsible, boom-and-bust budgeting and the failure
to control spending over the past decade had left the State with a $2.2 billion budget deficit at the end of fiscal year 2010, and an $11 billion deficit looming for fiscal year 2011. The Day of Reckoning had arrived for New Jersey and a decision had to be made – change direction by making the tough choices or risk economic ruin.
Governor Christie took on the challenge to decisively change the path New Jersey was on. Budget deficits in consecutive years, amounting to $13 billion, were closed without raising taxes. State taxes finally went down for the first time in a decade, renewing a sense of certainty and stability among New Jersey’s job creators. A hard, 2% cap on property taxes was enacted. The unemployment rate has begun to drop and, for the first time in four years, New Jersey is no longer rated as having the worst business climate in the nation.
A generation of economic and fiscal distress cannot be undone in just one year, but New Jersey has slowly begun to inch away from the precipice it had for years recklessly edged upon.
By making tough choices right away, Governor Christie has set a foundation for reform and begun to restore fiscal sanity to New Jersey. It is critical that the State continues down the path of real reform, rather than return to the old practice of skirting the difficult issues and embracing fiscal irresponsibility.
Despite how hard it may seem, now is the time to do the big things for New Jersey.
For years, the status quo culture and politicians in Trenton said that sweeping change was impossible, that it was political suicide or impractical to overcome the entrenched special interests. It was said that the momentum to bury problems was greater than the will to face them, and that it was always easier to increase taxes, fees and spending than to cut back and offend politically-sensitive constituencies.
Governor Christie has shown that bold, meaningful change is not only possible, but what the people want and expect from their leaders today. In the first year in office, the Christie Administration has acted on a commitment to confront problems in the present, rather than allow them to fester, grow and become even larger for tomorrow. Now, Governor Christie is bringing a reform agenda to the next set of issues to build a stronger, better New Jersey for the future: