Get the hell off the beach!

•August 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“I saw some of these news feeds that I have been watching upstairs of people sitting on the beach in Asbury Park,” said Christie. “Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out–you’re done, it’s 4:30–you have maximized your tan, get off the beach, get in your cars and get out of those areas.”

New Jersey Governor Christie and NYC Mayor Bloomberg are taking heat for their hard-core evacuation and emergency shutdowns of their respective fiefdoms. Some are saying they should have taken their information from the National Weather Service and not the media hype known as the Weather Channel.

They made the proper decisions. What sort of fallout would we have seen had they not been stern, and Irene turned out to be a Katrina of the Northeast?

We expected better

•April 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Come on Chris, we expected better from you.  The Atlantic City Press said it best today.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the $8.9 million payroll in the Governor’s Office under Gov. Chris Christie is nearly $2 million more than the payroll under former Gov. Jon S. Corzine and includes 34 people making more than $100,000 while Corzine had 18 people making six figures.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak responded immediately, saying the AP had undercounted Corzine’s payroll.

The former governor had at least a dozen staffers who were “on loan” to the Governor’s Office and whose salaries were assigned to other departments, said Drewniak, who demanded that AP retract the story. Add in those staffers, and Corzine’s $7 million payroll last year comes to $8.3 million, Drewniak added.

I waited to comment on the AP story until Christie’s staff had a chance to respond. The AP cut Corzine slack for fudging numbers, but Chris is completely out of line.  His salaries are still $600,000 MORE than Corzine.  As stated in the Press editorial, Chris is not independently wealthy and so that would add $125,000.

But when you expect everyone else to endure massive cuts, then the Governor’s office should lead by example. Chris, we devoted republicans implore you to correct this egregious oversight immediately. Your aides ALL need to take major pay cuts. Your wife does NOT need taxpayer funded employees on her staff. You said you would change the way things are done in NJ government, please start with your own office.

A teacher with mixed feelings

•April 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Robert Owens is a public school teacher with mixed feelings about Christie’s budget insofar as it affects teachers. Read on:

Governor Chris Christie has taken on the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). With education representing 40% of the state budget, reform cannot occur unless education is addressed. Christie is addressing education front and center. NJEA is understandably perturbed.

I support Christie’s moves. He’s frozen funds for districts and told them to spend their nest eggs surplus funds. He had the Legislature pass a series of pension reforms. Now he is battling for wage freezes for teachers. This is another item I support.

The problem I have is with how the governor is framing the issue.

Speaking to the Asbury Park Press editorial board the same day, Christie said a wage freeze and contribution of 1.5 percent of salaries toward health benefits would save taxpayers $800 million and nearly make up for all the state’s cuts in school aid. If it were “all about the kids,” you’d think the NJEA would support that idea, as it would keep more teachers in the schools and help keep taxes down during these troubling economic times.

Christie is trying to guilt teachers into opening their contracts in order to preserve jobs.

To Privatize?

•March 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A story just out that really lacks detail but was enough to give me pause concerns Christie’s foray into privatization.

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie is looking at ways to privatize jobs to save money as he tries to find to plug a projected $11 billion budget deficit for the 2011 fiscal year.

I am in favor of the aggressive stance Chris has been taking on cutting slashing spending in almost every area of government. The knee-jerk reactionaries are screaming when his axe comes near their pet expenditure, but I would much rather see them diligently work to cut unnecessary spending rather than scream that they are victims.

This state is in a mess, and Chris can point to Corzine, who will point to McGreasey, who will point to the other Christy. Face it, both parties have been complicit in this train wreck that we call the New Jersey economy. It is going to take some aggressive action and oinnovative thinking to fix the problem. However, a word of caution when it comes to privatization.

Whitman privatized the motor vehicle inspection, awarding the contract to an inept and corrupt company that also was too closely associated with her for comfort. The required motor vehicle inspection in New jersey is a disaster – you can expect to be abused by arrogant employees, forced to endure an eternity waiting in line, and you can possibly fail inspection (as I was) for something that is not even broke on your car because the person doing the inspection is unfit for any but the most menial of employment.

Compare this to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle offices such as Vineland, NJ were the work flow is streamlined, the employees are pleasant and friendly (not to mention knowledgeable) and most tasks will have you in and out in less than 15 minutes (unless you are a stoo-nod and decide to renew your license on the last day of the month).

These examples are proof that privatization is not the answer in every case. We must be looking not only at the dollar savings, but the inconvenience factor to taxpayers – my time is worth more than whatever savings can be conjured by taking the motor vehicle offices back to the 70′s when any trip for any purpose, no matter how simple, entailed a two hour ordeal with nasty people behind the counter that hated working there as much as you hated having to go there.

Christie’s Axe Keeps Swinging

•February 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I worked as Parts Control Manager of a large international company back in the mid 90′s. When I was promoted to the job, I was told to bring spending down. Now the spending was linked directly to parts needed to repair customer equipment – and it was inexcusable to leave a customer without a working machine.

My solution was to purchase from third-party suppliers as long as they provided quality parts. The company I worked for had this loophole that allowed me to purchase parts from sources other than them, and they were extremely overpriced to begin with. No savings was too small for me to switch vendors. If a vendor came in with a savings of 50 cents, I figured that equated to $50 for 100 items. Multiply that $50 by what eventually became a list of over 200 parts that I outsourced – the savings mounted. Some parts cost as much as $10 less than OEM.

New Jersey faces a $2.2 Billion budget gap this year, and Christie is looking to make a lot of small things add up. One piece of news that slipped under the south Jersey radar was the $3.6 million that Christie took back from Carney’s Point.

Some $3.6 million earmarked for the Carneys Point Regional Waste Water Management Project has been taken away by the Christie administration to plug holes in the fiscal year 2010 state budget.

I can hear the reactionaries right now. “Oh my, he took money for a waste treatment plant!” Well, if Carney’s Point had wanted that waste management plant, they would possibly have not spent $400,000 of the money on “studies”. They would have proceeded with a plan rather than allow the money to sit stagnant for seven years.

I have an idea – maybe he should rescind that $67 MILLION Christmas Tree gift left to Camden by outgoing loser Jon Corzine. Does Camden need that money? To give you a clue, the mayor doubled the salaries of her “cabinet” and appointed Corzine aides to fill the positions. it sounds like the state manager is pulling out of Camden too soon.

Fun with Numbers

•February 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

John Bury – certainly not one of Chris Christie’s biggest fans – has an interesting column today.

Proposed legislation “requires the State, beginning July 1, 2011, to make in full the annual employer’s contribution, as computed by the actuaries”. Is this a new era of fiscal responsibility? Are contribution holidays and deferrals over? Hardly. It continues:

“The State would be in compliance with this requirement provided the State makes a payment, to each State-administered retirement system or fund, of at least 1/7th of the full contribution, as computed by the actuaries, in the State fiscal year commencing July 1, 2011 and makes a payment in each subsequent fiscal year that increases by at least an additional 1/7th until payment of the full contribution is made in the eighth fiscal year and thereafter. This phase-in is for the purpose of allowing the State to make gradual adjustments to the annual appropriations act.”

So “full payment’ in New Jersey will mean 1/7th. Not even Corzine sunk this low. All he suggested was half.

I have to agree  with him on his assessment on this one. New Jersey has had enough ot politicians that lie and play games with numbers and words. I certainly hope that this is not a portent of things to come – if it is, Chris Christie is no better than any one of the other dozen losers we have had at the helm in the past.

Bury goes on to opine that the other pension reform bills apply only to new hires. While the surest and quickest way to reform the pensions would be to make all changes retro-active, that would also be the surest way to kill the reforms before they even make it to the stage of conception. While it will be nigh impossible to get union support for the weakened versions that only affect new hires, I can only imagine the lawsuits and back-room politics if Christie tried to change existing contractual obligations.

Plus, contracts are contracts, and agreements are agreements.  People hired on, and certain conditions were promised. As ill-conceived as most public contractual obligations are, they were negotiated and agreed upon in good faith. You don’t go trying to change old agreements, you simply ensure that the same mistakes are not made in the future.

I would have more confidence that this could happen if not for disconcerting news of smoke and mirrors, fun with numbers – where 100% only means 17%. That is deceptive, it is wrong, and the voters of New Jersey deserve better than that.  Chris, please take note that we thought we were electing an honest politician for a change.

Christie comes out swinging

•February 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have neglected this website since the election. It is not because there has not been any notable news, but I was biding my time, watching. But today the newspapers were full of great articles assuring me that I made the right decision in campaigning for, and voting for Chris Christie.

Sweeping Pension Changes
On NJ.com today there was an article that offers a gleam of hope for New jersey’s cash-strapped pension and health systems.

Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers of both parties will unveil a series of sweeping pension and benefit reforms Monday that could affect every public employee in New Jersey while saving the state billions of dollars, according to four officials with direct knowledge of the plan.

The proposals would require workers and retirees at all levels of government and local school districts to contribute to their own health care costs, ban part-time workers at the state and local levels from participating in the underfunded state pension system, cap sick leave payouts for all public employees and constitutionally require the state to fully fund its pension obligations each year.

This four-part plan has bi-partisan support.  Even the astute Stephen Sweeney and Barbara Buono seem to be in support of many of the reforms being proposed. These reforms were tried before, but Jon Corzine scuttled and emasculated them in deference to the union powers that be.

Christies seems to be going full steam-ahead on such reforms that I have advocated heartily as denying benefits to part-timers, and requiring a minimum of 32 hour work-weeks for full-time employees. Employees would be required to actually submit payments (a mere 1.5% of their salary) towards their health plans – the unions are already rallying to quash this inhuman demand!

Pensions would be based on the five highest years of income rather than the current three – hopefully killing the plans of many Jon Corzine loyalists that were appointed during his last week in office in order to scavenge even more public money for themselves. This is all great news – we will continue to watch the progress of these bills as the unions launch a full-blown hate-campaign filled with misinformation.

VETO Power!
Chris has wasted no time wielding his veto pen – sending political lackeys used to business as usual in New Jersey scurrying back to cover their arses.

The Press of Atlantic City ran an editorial today lauding Chris’s refusal to allow commissions to squander money. If only Cumberland County’s Lou Magazzu would take a lesson from Chris and actually READ the minutes of the board meetings, maybe he would not be blindsided by the shenanigans of the people that he has appointed and that continue to steal from the residents of the county. You see, Chris (or his staff, it doesn’t matter who as long as it gets done) actually READ the minutes of commission meetings prior to the Governor approving them. And it doesn’t look like Chris is happy!

Gov. Chris Christie has lost no time establishing this reputation: He’s going to be a hands-on, aggressive governor, willing to use every power of his office to push forward his agenda and cut government spending.

In less than a month in office, Christie has vetoed the minutes of three authorities – sending the clear message that these so-called “independent authorities” can’t spend millions upon millions of dollars independent of the governor’s approval.

Chris vetoed the minutes of the DRBA – an authority that has close ties to the corrupt Lou Magazzu machine in Cumberland County, because of a lack of clarification of $25,000 of payments to vendors. Yeah – that means this money went out the back door with no paperwork.  He vetoed the minutes of the state UEZ because of a “questionable $415,608 expenditure”.  And…

Christie vetoed the minutes of the Jan. 6 Schools Development Authority in which it approved an additional $1.2 million in change orders for work at Burlington City High School. The project has ballooned from $28.7 million to $46.4 million: “I’m not paying for these extraordinary, exorbitant overruns,” said Christie.

Chris is looking to expand his veto powers to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission where 96 commission members receive  six-figure salaries. And that is the main problem with these quasi-governmental, independent authorities – until now they ran without any government oversight, being allowed to run rampant and squander taxpayer money as if it came off of printing presses in their garage.

Christie Cleaning up Corzine’s Mess
And finally, there is an article from yesterday’s NJ.com:

A highly-touted program to pare the state payroll by offering early retirement to workers failed to produce the predicted savings and has strained departments that help New Jersey cope with the economic crisis, a review by The Star-Ledger has found.

The buyout program, announced with fanfare two years ago by Gov. Jon Corzine, prompted 1,492 people to take early retirement — but only 653 of them held positions that were fully funded by state taxpayers, according to data obtained under the Open Public Records Act. The rest held jobs funded by the federal government, dedicated funds or other sources.

That means the state is saving about $49.9 million on annual salaries financed solely by New Jersey taxpayers — short of Corzine’s $90 million goal. The bulk of the savings — $63.7 million — has come from jobs the state didn’t pay for.

At the same time, the workers who left — though fewer than the expected 2,144 — added a nearly $185 million long-term cost to the state pension system.

Corzine just might go down in history as the biggest disappointment as a NJ Governor. The title of worst governor is still a toss-up between Florio and McGreevey.  Corzine certainly ran on experience that was overrated, and was elected only because of his supposed business acumen. When it came down to brass tacks, however, he proved that he was a feeble negotiator and confirmed our suspicions that he was beholden to labor interests even if those interests were counter-productive and hurt the average New Jersey resident.

All in all, Chris has done much to impress in the one month that he has taken office. And while these actions are not a panacea to the states fiscal woes, they are a step in the right direction, and the absolute FIRST time in my memory that a governor has actively worked to correct malfeasance at a statewide level.

 
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