It’s beginning to look like Governor Chris Christie’s Boulevard of Compromise is a dead end.
The 2% property tax cap is under attack, as the Trenton Democrats are on the verge of passing an “extension” of the Interest Arbitration Award Cap that eliminates the cap on most arbitration awards and increases the cap on the remainder of the potential awards by 50%.
In my piece last night about the Interest Arbitration Cap, I raised the hope that published reports that Assembly and Senate committees cleared an identical bill that guts the cap were inaccurate because Senator Mike Doherty was co-sponsor of the Senate bill and because of Senate President Steve Sweeney’s comments about the cap at his Town Hall Meeting in Keansburg last week. It turns out that was wishful thinking. MMM has learned the bills are identical and, inexplicably, Doherty is a primary sponsor of the Senate bill, giving Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto “bi-partisan” cover.
Doherty has yet to return our call for comment. We’ve been told his attitude about the bill he is sponsoring with Sweeney is “a bill that will pass is better than no bill.”
Doherty has a point, albeit a minor one. If no bill passes by April 1, there is no cap on Interest Arbitration awards at all. If the bill that cleared through committees yesterday passes the full legislature and is signed by Christie, there will be a 3% cap on a minority of municipal government labor contracts for the next few years. If Christie vetoes the bill, even conditionally, there is no arbitration cap. Either way the property tax blaze is about to be reignited and/or the pain inflicted upon municipalities will be so great that consolidations and mergers will be forced indelicately. The backdoor destruction of municipal governments appears to be Sweeney’s undeclared plan.
This morning we learned that a key element of Christie’s cost containment on education spending is also under attack by the Democratic legislature. Sweeney and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Jr are pushing legislation that would overturn Christie’s cap on school superintendent salaries.
Early on in Christie’s governorship it was said that Christie was playing three dimensional chess while the Democrats were playing checkers. It sure looked that way. But now it looks as if the Democrats caught on and now they are catching up. They appear to be dismantling the reforms of Christie’s first term, piece by piece.
What we are witnessing is the consequence of Christie’s no coattails reelection. It is beginning to look like Sweeney and his mentor George Norcross have played Christie like Putin playing Obama. They watched and smiled last fall as Christie ran up the score on a election he was assured of winning while he appeared with smiling Democrats, including Sweeney, on the campaign trail. The Democrats and their union backers have lots to smile about now.