BY STEVE ADUBATO only in new jersey
;;;;;;; ;;;;;;;; Chris Christie as
governor of New Jersey in January
;;;; is going to have a tough job. Some
might say that the problems facing our
next chief executive are intractable,
perhaps even impossible to solve.
By the time you read this, both
major parties will have held their
June ; conventions and chosen their
standard-bearers for this November’s
election. The candidates will be making
promises, sounding confident, o;ering solutions to our state’s problems.
They’ll be vowing to lower taxes while
increasing state aid for important and
The reality will be quite di;erent.
Here are a few of the tough issues facing our next governor:
Public Pensions: It’s unlikely anyone
can solve the public-pension crisis. But
how about some meaningful
progress? The state’s unfunded pension
liability is estimated at ;;; billion to ;;;
billion. For years, governors of both par-
ties underfunded public-employee pen-
sion funds. As governor, Chris Christie
has put more into the funds than many
previous governors, but the crisis con-
tinues. Our next governor must have a
sobering, possibly painful, conversation
about pensions with public employees.
Many Democrats are convinced there
are su;cient revenue sources to cover
the pension liability—but that might
mean sacrificing popular state programs
School Funding: Making sure that
every child in New Jersey gets a
“thorough and e;cient” education
regardless of their zip code is our state’s
highest priority. However, the current
way the state funds public schools often
makes no sense. Certain districts, like
Jersey City and Hoboken, get more
state aid than seems fair, given their
tremendous economic growth. Mean-
while, certain non-urban districts, such
as Phillipsburg and Freehold Borough,
are woefully underfunded and are
dealing with over-crowded classrooms
and deteriorating facilities. It wasn’t
the intent of the Supreme Court in the
Abbott decisions to help urban children
get a fair shake by giving the shaft to
kids in suburban and rural areas.
Transportation: NJ Transit is underfunded; its maintenance problems are
well documented. The system’s relationship with Amtrak makes no sense.
And mass-transit commuters have
been living a nightmare for too long.
Mass transit requires a major investment. NJ Transit has recently received
some financial help from the state, but
it is not nearly enough. As for maintaining roads and bridges, the increased gas
tax (now ;; cents per gallon) has helped
the Transportation Trust Fund. The
new chief exec will have the tough job
of appropriating the funds wisely.
Hurricane Sandy: Many victims of
Sandy still aren’t back in their homes or
businesses. New Jersey’s next governor
should make it the highest priority to
ensure that state and federal bureaucracies do a better job of helping long-su;ering Sandy victims return to some
sense of normalcy. Too often the nature
of government is to turn to the latest
crisis—at the expense of emergencies
that have faded from the headlines.
Sandy’s victims need to know they
haven’t been forgotten.
And More: Additional issues include
funding for state colleges and universities, which have taken a huge hit in the
last decade; maintaining state aid to local governments; and dealing with prospective changes in the A;ordable Care
Act and its potential impact on Jersey’s
poor, sick and/or elderly. And let’s not
forget Atlantic City’s fiscal crisis.
So you really want to be governor?
Campaign pledges won’t fix our thorniest problems.
STEVE ADUBATO, PHD. is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/ WNE T (PBS) and NJTV (PBS) who regularly appears on the Today Show,
CNN, Fox News and on many New York-based radio stations. His new book, Lessons in Leadership, o;ers lasting leadership strategies that all leaders
can implement. For more information, log on to stand-deliver.com. Find Steve on Facebook @steveadubatophd and Twitter @SteveAdubato.