Now, finally, New Jersey will have the debate it has avoided for too long because Gov. Chris Christie is showing us what New Jersey would really look like with smaller state government.And from today's editorial (ht to Stan Karp):
State tax increases would be held in check, a huge relief.
But there is a trade-off. Classrooms would be more crowded, working families would lose health care, college tuitions would increase, and cops and firefighters would be laid off. Our staggering pension debt would deepen as Christie punts on a scheduled $3 billion payment.
As the debate begins, we offer two thoughts. First, the governor can’t possibly justify deep tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest families while he’s imposing these spending cuts. He even increases taxes on the working poor by scaling back the earned income tax credit. This is not shared sacrifice. It is class warfare.
Now the trade-off is clear: In the name of small government, Gov. Chris Christie is moving to deliver a powerful punch to the jaw of New Jersey’s public school system.
His insistence on lower taxes for the state’s wealthiest families is forcing deep cuts that will do real damage. In the face of rising costs and signed labor contracts, he asks the state’s schools to abruptly reduce spending by 5 percent in one year.
That’s going to cause havoc. It will force substantial layoffs of teachers and other personnel, who make up roughly 80 percent of the costs in most districts. It will translate into larger class sizes and stingier offerings. It will inevitably damage student performance. And it will diminish the allure of teaching as a profession, planting the seeds for long-term decay of educational quality.
Christie says this is unavoidable, given the need to close a large budget gap. But that’s just not true. The math here is undeniable.
These education cuts amount to $820 million. Christie’s refusal to extend the surtax on families earning more than $400,000 will cost the state treasury $900 million, by the treasurer’s latest estimate. In other words, extending the surtax would allow him to cancel these school cuts.
Christie is on the right path in shrinking New Jersey’s government at all levels. But he is doing so recklessly, in part because he clings so tightly to that tax cut. . . .