Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Grinch that was Christie

Governor Christie’s initiative to privatize the jobs of thousands of dedicated state employees once again reveals that his plan to manage New Jersey’s fiscal crisis will be on the backs of those who can least afford it.

No doubt that Mr. Christie inherited a fiscal mess. The repercussions of the Bush Recession will resonate through the public and private sectors for years to come. But so far, the wealthy have been unimpacted by the governor’s necessarily draconian approach.

How can transferring public sector jobs to for-profit companies save money? Simple. Since the contracts will go to the lowest bidder, wages of those performing vital state services will be cut significantly. Of course, this will discourage the “best and the brightest” from pursuing a career in public service. As contractors pursue profits over service, they will also place the burden on the workers by hiring them as “independent contractors” so the companies that receive this work don’t have to pay for benefits or the FICA tax. And of course, regardless of which party is in power, contractors will be chosen based on political connections rather than their ability to do the work.

The governor is also proposing making state residency a prerequisite for having a government job at any level – state, county, or municipality. Would this requirement extend to private contractors? Will the low-paid state-sponsored contractors even be able to afford to live in New Jersey, one of the most expensive states in the nation in terms of housing?

If we are going to solve New Jersey’s financial problems, all parties must contribute. The governor should cancel the pending tax cut for those earning over $400,000 per year. And he should start a bold initiative to chip away at the third rail of New Jersey politics – home rule. By cutting down on the number of independent municipalities and school districts, the overhead savings alone would make a significant dent in the state’s deficit. How about it, Mr. Governor?

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