New Jersey’s blunt-talking Gov. Chris Christie (R) is not shy about shredding his state’s budget. Since taking office in 2010, Christie has slashed $3 billion in funding, leaving low-income citizens with a severe lack of legal help, the mentally ill without a home, thousands of New Jersey women without health clinics to visit, 15,000 low-income students without an after-school program, and 4,000 police officers without jobs. This jobs-focused governor even celebrated firing thousands of public employees.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board noted that, if Christie truly cares about creating jobs, he could be putting “thousands of New Jersey’s construction workers, as well as architects, engineers and building suppliers, back to work right now” by approving 53 major school construction projects that were approved and awaiting his go-ahead upon taking office. Those projects include replacing structurally unsound roofs or water and sewer leaks. Instead, Christie stopped work on all of these projects upon arrival in 2010 (later approving only 10 projects). His order remains in effect today and is costing thousands of jobs and stifling economic growth:
A 2008 study by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers shows that $1 billion spent on school construction would have a significant impact on New Jersey’s economy, generating:
— 8,700 job years (or 2,900 new full-time jobs, each lasting three years)
— $469,072,000 in individual income
— $13,421,000 in state taxes
— $16,044,000 in local taxes
— $610,929,000 in gross state product
As the Star-Ledger notes, the Schools Development Authority had already spent more than $200 million in taxpayer dollars to prepare the projects for construction, the state unemployment rate for construction workers is more than 12 percent, and “thousands of children attend schools in desperate need of repair and replacement.” But Christie remains tethered to an austerity motto that keeps New Jerseyans out of work and children in unsafe schools.
But who Christie chooses to disregard is made all the more maddening by who he is electing to protect instead: millionaires. The state passed a tax on millionaires that would help provide revenue for these programs and projects. Christie vetoed it — twice — once in under two minutes flat.
“Our children go to school to learn, but these days, the main lesson we seem to be teaching them is that their health and safety and their future are not as important as adding even more to the wealth of those at the top,” said New Jersey Work Environment Council’s Eileen Senn. “Elected officials, including Chris Christie, surely can do better.”