Governor Chris Christie provided considerably more detail on his proposed reform package yesterday, including many proposals that strike at the heart of several unsavory New Jersey traditions.
The Star-Ledger (Newark) released this detailed outline of the reform proposals, under the headings of ethics, education, economy, and pensions. Many of these are proposals that the governor has made before. Others are new. The governor will likely have to fight, and fight hard, for many of his proposals, but he might have more support than one might expect.
The ethics reforms are probably the most critical to the achievement of other reforms. Christie takes direct aim at the oldest problem in government: conflict of interest. To that end, he proposes that all public officials, elected or appointed, draw one, and only one, salary. All present dual officeholders would have to choose forthwith which one of their two (or more) current positions they would keep and which they would resign. Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3-Gloucester) has already been shamed into resigning as Gloucester County Freeholder in the most prominent dual officeholding case to date. But Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) still serves as a deputy county administrator under Essex County Executive Joseph “Joe D” DiVincenzo. She is one of seven Democratic dual officeholders remaining in the legislature to date. (The two Republican dual officeholders, Senator Robert Singer and Assemblyman Robert Dancer, both of Ocean County, pledged not to seek re-election to their respective local offices.)
In addition, all politicians would have to disclose as much of their finances as executive employees must now do. He also seeks to forbid politicians to use funds raised to support one campaign directly in a different campaign.
The Star-Ledger editorial board said this morning that Christie is challenging the Democrats to clean house. Sure enough, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-Union) protested the reforms vigorously. The Star-Ledger did not appear to be sympathetic: “Imagine for a moment that Oliver or Cryan skipped work on sunny days. Would they get in trouble? Imagine that they ask for pay raises or promotions. Would their bosses treat them like everyone else?”
The Star-Ledger confidently predicted that the reforms would pass, because even their obvious targets would be ashamed to vote or speak against them.
On education, Christie is proposing merit pay for teachers and more restrictions on tenure. He had proposed these very reforms in the Race to the Top application, and has told national audiences that he will pursue those reforms, federal grant or no. The New Jersey Education Association is already fighting him on this, but they are still a union that has run out of friends.
The details on his pension and benefits reforms are still sketchy. Aside from a proposal to base employee health-care plan contributions on the per-capita health-insurance premium, not on the worker’s wage or salary, The Star-Ledger reported no other new proposals.
The economic-development package contains the most new material: a streamlining of application and recordkeeping requirements, an easing of regulations, and some tax cuts.
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