Corzine's message has few new ideas
By MICHAEL SYMONS and ADAM SMELTZ
Summarizing his first three years in office but offering few new proposals
for the 2009 election season, Gov. Jon S. Corzine said in his State of the
State address on Tuesday that he won't duck the recession-induced
"I've never run from a challenge, and I'm not running from this one,"
Corzine said, nearing the end of his 45-minute speech before a joint
session of the Legislature.
"Let me say this to the people of New Jersey: I may not always say what's
popular, but you can be sure that what I say comes from the heart," said
the governor, whose job-approval ratings are upside-down in public-opinion
He said the national unemployment rate, now 7.1 percent, could rise to 10
percent in 2009. He reviewed steps the state has taken in response, such
as business-tax reform, job credits and added spending for safety-net and
Going forward, he said the state will commit $4.7 billion to
Corzine also called for a moratorium on a new fee paid by real-estate
developers. Suspending the 2.5 percent levy on commercial development
would ease the tax burden on developers but slow the revenue stream for
affordable-housing projects, supported in part by the development fee.
Gloucester County Freeholder-Director Stephen M. Sweeney applauded the
"It's a bad time to be hitting developers with additional fees when the
economy is as bad as it is," said Sweeney, who doubles as a Democratic
Corzine warned that the recession will probably last beyond 2009. "New
Jersey is faring better than other states by most standards," he said.
"But when one worker loses his job, when one family loses its home, when
one child goes without health care, our work is incomplete."
In March, Corzine said, he will propose the fiscal 2010 budget, which
carries a projected $5 billion structural deficit. He said he "will
undoubtedly propose additional, painful cuts."
"I don't look forward to it," Corzine told lawmakers. "I know you don't."
Corzine also said he will instruct the state Department of Community
Affairs "to firmly enforce" a 4 percent cap on municipal property-tax
increases, saying 80 percent of the state's municipalities so far exceeded
it last year.
In addition, the governor pushed for his legislative proposal that would
allow towns to defer half their annual payment to the government-worker
pension fund. The measure would save the towns $534 million this year but
failed to win passage in the Senate in December.
Gloucester Township Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton said she understands the
deferral concept. But it doesn't amount to true tax relief, she said.
"It's just going to push it off to another year," Rau-Hatton said.
Likewise, in Cherry Hill, mayoral spokesman Dan Keashen said the deferral
would "not remove the burden or expense on municipalities."
"In fact, it will exacerbate that burden," said Keashen, who speaks for
Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt.
Corzine also urged the Legislature to take action on ethics and
campaign-finance reforms he outlined in September.
Corzine touched on the environment, as well, suggesting that voters
support a November referendum item to fund open-space preservation.
Camden County Freeholder-Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said he encourages
such efforts, too.
"It's very important, in our densely populated state, that we preserve
green areas, areas of recreation and open space for future generations,"
Cappelli said. "By doing so, not only are we being wise from an
environmental perspective, but we're also creating (real-estate) value in
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Adam Smeltz at
(856) 486-2919 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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