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March 03, 2010

Chris Christie's Must-Watch Rallying Cry for Fiscal Sanity

steve_in_hb sent me this long address by Chris Christie to municipal government officials with the email subject "Go Jersey Go." I half-watched it until I realized... it was pretty damn red-meat fiscal conservatism and pretty damn good. And without notes or a teleprompter!

This is darned good stuff. Here's a guy who seems pretty determined to make the "hard choices," by which he means rolling back ridiculously high rates of pay for public employees, and shutting down the Santa Claus mentality of the "political class."

The video is here. Because it's too long for most to watch, let me suggest that you watch from 14:35 to 20:40, which is a general rallying cry for fiscal sanity with national applicability. His best stuff comes near the end of that, when he states he is determined to govern as a one-termer, because that's what it's going to take to get the state's finances in order. Tough, unpopular decisions.

If you have more time, go back and bit and watch from 7:15 to 13:00, which is slightly more Jersey-centric, but which is pretty awesome, because basically he takes on the public-employee unions and tells them the Automatic Budget-Breaking Raise Store is closed and won't be reopening anytime soon.

He says several times the public wants the truth, and that they expect their public officials to start getting serious-minded about spending -- and the early polls bear that out:

Fifty-two percent approve of his job performance less than two months in, while 21 percent disapprove. Support is somewhat divided along party lines, with Republicans backing him 74-7, and Democrats split 38-33. Independents approve by a margin of 43-17 percent. Christie's fav/unfav is now 47 / 25, an improvement from a 41 / 44 split in a poll just before last November's election.

If you don't have the time to watch, below are the transcripted parts of the best parts of his speech. (In chronological order, this time, so the best excerpt -- the first one I suggested watching -- actually comes second, and the second-best comes first.) The address is here, but note that blog misses some important paragraphs, like his vow to govern as a one-termer.

As that blog says: "That was the best speech on spending by any government official I have ever heard."

This guy... this is my kind of guy.

I gotta tell you, right now I'm wondering if we can have an overweight vice presidential candidate.

Quip: Dave @ Garfield Ridge writes:

Last week Paul Ryan, this week Christie-- I haven't been this turned on by a fat guy since Chris Farley danced at Chippendales.

A great friend of mine is a lifelong journeyman city manager in NJ, a blue-and-blue Democrat. *Even he* acknowledges that Christie resonates up there, that the center simply can not hold.


Trascript, and, remember, if you're following along with the speech, this is the second, not-quite-as-awesome clip I recommended:

People did not send me here to talk, the people sent me here to do. So we took the executive action we did to stop the bleeding.

As we move forward, and we evaluate what we need to do three weeks from now in our fiscal year 2011 budget address, you all need to understand the context from which we operate.

Our citizens are already the most overtaxed in America. US mayors hear it all the time. You know that the public appetite for ever increasing taxes has reached an end.

So when we freeze $475 million in school aid, I am hearing the reverberations from school boards saying now you are just going to force us to raise taxes.

Well there is a 4% cap in place as you all know, yet school boards continue to give out raises which exceed that cap, just on salary. Not to mention the fact that most of them get no contribution towards the spiraling increase in health care benefits.

Now, we are going to reduce spending at the state level. And we are going to continue to reduce it because we have no choice but to do so. Our obligation to you is twofold. One, is to let you know that. So I'm' letting you know that.

Second to work with the legislature to give you the tools helping you to reduce spending at the municipal level. Now the pension and benefit reform package that was passed unanimously in the senate this week begins to give you some of those tools.

But it is only a beginning.

Do we need to change some of the rules of arbitration to level the playing field to allow municipalities and school boards to have a more level sense of collective bargaining?

I think the evidence of ever increasing raises being given to public sector workers as a result of the arbitration system tells us that we do. [Applause From Mayors]

But you have to stand up and give the support to the legislators in this building to get them to do that. I can guarantee you this, that more pension and benefit reforms which I will consider arbitration reform to be one of them, are things that when they come to my desk, they will be signed. [Applause From Mayors]

Because we can no longer continue on a path where we say we are going to reduce spending at the state level but we are not going to give you any tools to do that at the municipal level and the school board level.

By the same token I am tired of hearing school superintendents and school board members complain that there are no other options than raising property taxes. There are other options.

You know, Marlboro, after a two year negotiation, they give a five year contract giving 4.5% annual salary increases to the teachers, with no contribution, zero contribution to health care benefits.

But I am sure there are people in Marlboro who have lost their jobs, who have had their homes foreclosed on, and who cannot keep a roof over their family's head there is something wrong.

You know, at some point there has to be parity. There has to be parity between what is happening in the real world, and what is happening in the public sector world. The money does not grow on trees outside this building or outside your municipal building. It comes from the hard working people of our communities who are suffering and are hurting right now.

The first clip I suggested watching:

And so we need to get honest with each other. In this instance, the political class,for which unfortunately all of us are a member of, the political class is lagging behind the public on this. The public is ready to hear that tough choices have to be made. They're not going to like it. Don't confuse the two. But they are ready to hear the truth.

In fact, they find it refreshing to hear the truth.

They are tired of hearing, don't worry I can spare you from the pain, because they have been hearing that for a decade, as we have borrowed and spent and taxed our way into oblivion.

We have done every quick fix in the book that you can do. And now we are left, literally holding the bag.

Leadership should be about making tough decisions. I'm not hear to tell you that anything you are going to have to do as mayors, council people will be easy. But I firmly believe after spending the last year traveling around the state of New Jersey, talking to regular citizens, that this is what they are expecting us to do.

They are also expecting us to ferret out waste and abuse. But they also know that old song that waste and abuse is going to balance the budget is an old and tired one, and it's not going to.

Now we are going to have a fight about COAH. And I have engaged in that fight and I have engaged in it directly. Not only will I be fighting COAH, I will be fighting the courts too. [Applause From Mayors]

That's OK.

We need to understand we are all in this together. And you know, all of you know in your heart, what I am saying is true. You all know that these raises that are being given to public employees of all stripes, we cannot afford. You all know the state cannot continue to spend money it does not have. And you all know that the appetite for tax increases among our constituents has come to an end.

And so the path to reform and success is clear. We know what it is. We just have to have the courage to go there. What we are doing is showing people that government can work again for them, not for us. Government has worked for the political class for much too long.

There's no time left. We have no room left to borrow. We have no room left to tax. So we merely have room left now, to do this.

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posted by Ace at 02:54 PM

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