xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Will Larry Hogan lead like Chris Christie?

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has given New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a special place in his inaugural ceremony this week, testifying to his gratitude for Mr. Christie's work on behalf of Mr. Hogan's underdog campaign. A nice gesture, to be sure. But here is a warning to the people of Maryland: Hope that your new governor does not lean on New Jersey's governor for guidance on what to do once in office.

Yes, Governor Christie inherited a nasty fiscal situation when he took office in 2010 in the midst of the Great Recession. But then he proceeded to pursue policies, actions — and inaction — that accelerated New Jersey's downward economic spiral.

Advertisement

You don't have to take my word for it. The three major credit rating agencies have lowered New Jersey's rating eight times in five years — a new record. Governor Hogan, on the other hand, will be handed the scepter in one of 16 states enjoying the highest bond status, AAA.

And while Maryland has recovered all the jobs it lost in the Great Recession, New Jersey has restored just half. The result: New Jersey leads in jobless rates for veterans, is second for the percentage of the jobless who have been out of work for six months or more, ranks second in home foreclosures and saw the largest increase in residents living in poverty in 2013. Ouch!

Advertisement
Advertisement

Governor Christie has bet on a single approach: give businesses $2 billion in tax cuts and, on top of that, offer corporations $5 billion in tax breaks if they stay or expand in New Jersey or relocate to the state. Not surprisingly, none of this has worked to bring New Jersey out of the basement in job growth because tax rates are an insignificant factor in job creation.

What is most worrisome about this strategy is that it ignores or neglects New Jersey's powerful economic assets: its location in the middle of the world's largest market, a transportation network to move goods and people to that market and into New York and Philadelphia, diverse residential communities with excellent schools, a well-educated workforce, a magnetism for striving immigrants and two renowned research universities.

Consider just one of those assets, transportation. The fund that pays for improving and expanding New Jersey's roads, bridges and public transit will go broke in just over five months because the state hasn't come to grips with a gas tax that's second-lowest in the nation and hasn't been increased in over two decades. No new revenues for the fund mean no new projects in a state with some of the worst roads in the nation and a hobbled mass transit system. This is a full-blown emergency, producing a strange-bedfellows coalition of business, labor, environmental, planning and other groups around a strong and immediate response. Legislative leaders have recognized the magnitude of the problem and the need to find substantial new revenues. Not Governor Christie. His recent 43-minute State of the State address included nary a word about the looming bankruptcy.

Our governor also likes to talk about liabilities — particularly ones that he inherited and "fixed." As he tours the nation, his signature accomplishment is a bipartisan 2011 agreement that put public employee pensions and health benefits on a sustainable trajectory. Unmentioned is that the deal blew up in 2014 when the governor walked away from the state's end of the bargain and shorted the system by $2.4 billion.

Advertisement

Governor Christie is right that this is a problem years in the making and not susceptible to a one-year fix. But, while chastising public employees in his State of the State address, he was silent about what he proposes to do about it.

At the same time, while Governor Christie enjoys having his photograph taken with poor kids in failing schools, his record in extending a helping hand to their striving families is lamentable. He cut the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, fought an increase in the minimum wage and vetoed access to financial aid for undocumented college students.

In short, if you're hoping that your new governor will nurture the assets that make Maryland great, chart a course of sound financial policy and give a boost to your neighbors who struggle to get by, you better hope he puts that famous Garden State governor on his do-not-call list.

Gordon MacInnes is president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research and analysis aimed at improving the well being of all New Jerseyans. Gordon@njpp.org.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement