As Governor Christie begins his campaign for president, this seems like an ideal moment to look back on and evaluate his record as governor of New Jersey. Governor Christie likes to use his leadership in New Jersey as a model for the rest of the country, so let’s take a closer look at that leadership and the results it has obtained these last six years.
Governor Christie has failed in his management of New Jersey’s economy. When he took office, New Jersey’s unemployment rate was on par with the national average. Today the national unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2 percent, but New Jersey has lagged behind the country and finds itself with an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent. That is the sixth highest in the nation. It’s no surprise that New Jersey has lagged in job creation when you look at Governor Christie’s economic policies: Slashing education funding, vetoing an increase in the minimum wage, and failing to invest in job-creating infrastructure projects.
Governor Christie’s record on the state budget is similarly abysmal. New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded nine times since the governor took office. The primary reason for the downgrades is that the governor has continually refused to fully fund the state’s pension obligations, pushing us closer and closer to a financial crisis. Our state has $80 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and the governor is only making that worse. The most ridiculous example of the governor’s fiscal irresponsibility was the decision to schedule the 2013 Senate Special Election to take place just 20 days before the November general election. This was totally unnecessary and cost the state over $25 million. Hardworking taxpayers had their money wasted so that Governor Christie could play political games. That is a crystallization of the Christie budget record: politics before people.
The governor’s environmental record is also poor. Despite proclaiming his acceptance of the science of climate change, he pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That was a shortsighted pander to his political base and business interests. We will have to grapple with the reality of climate change eventually, and delaying the process will only make it more painful in the future. Also, the governor settled the state’s $9 billion lawsuit with Exxon for only $225 million, a massive giveaway to big oil. Real people are hurt by dirty air and water, and the governor has shown himself unwilling to protect them.
And finally, perhaps most concerning of all has been the governor’s lack of commitment to equality for all our citizens. The governor vetoed legislation that would have legalized gay marriage in New Jersey and then continued to oppose equality until the New Jersey Supreme Court rendered the issue moot. Governor Christie has continually opposed legislation to close the gender wage gap, even as New Jersey ranks near the bottom of the country in women’s pay equality. And the governor cut funding for women’s healthcare programs out of the state budget, denying thousands of women access to STD and cervical cancer screenings.
Is this the change America needs? I certainly do not think so, and recent polling suggests most of New Jersey agrees with me. Rather than run for president, Governor Christie should focus on the state he was elected to govern. We need to create jobs, secure equality for all our citizens, and get our finances in order. Those are big challenges, and it will be difficult to achieve them with a part-time governor.
-Jill LaZare is a candidate for State Assembly in District 21.