Governor Corzine Plan to ‘Monetize’ Toll Roads is attack on NJ Constitution

By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

“What is becoming impossible is to balance the budget consistent with the letter and the spirit of the constitution, meeting mandated and committed costs while still making necessary investments for our future.”
Governor Jon Corzine Budget Message-Feb. 22, 2007

With those words Governor Jon Corzine declared war on the Constitution of New Jersey.?? He gave that message many times.?? He said it on an Atlantic City talk radio program last April 14, just minutes before he tried to drive to a Princeton event 91 miles away in less than an hour.?? Last week he said the same thing when he called for “transformational change” at the League of Municipalities convention.
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The only times Corzine kept quiet about his plans were when he was recovering from his injuries–and when worried Democratic candidates told him to shut up until after the November elections.
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Take a close look at what Corzine is saying, and what he plans to do.??? First, he says we have certain “mandated and committed costs”.?? Second, he says we must pay for “necessary investments for our future”.?? Third, he admits that our NJ Constitution limits the power of today’s politicians to tax our children and grandchildren without voter approval.?? What to do?
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To Corzine, there is only one solution.? He calls it “asset monetization” or “leveraging the untapped value in the state’s toll roads”.
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There are only three ways to “monetize” or get money from an asset.?? You can sell it, lease it, or hock it (borrow against it).??? If a homeowner “monetizes” his house, he pays rent to live in his own home or elsewhere, or pays back a new mortgage loan with interest and all sorts of fees.
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If Corzine gets $16 billion for leasing or borrowing against our toll roads, we, our kids, and grandkids will pay back every penny, and then some, through much higher tolls. Since many out-of-state motorists will also get hit, their states will create similar gimmicks that will hit us when we go there.
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Corzine claims we have no choice!?? But he is wrong.? We have lots of choices.
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It is true that New Jersey has $32 billion in “bonded debt” that costs us roughly $3 billion (10% of our budget) each year.?? And state officials did promise anywhere from? $75 to $105 billion of pensions and “free” retiree medical benefits for state, local, and public school employees, but did not set aside any money to pay for them.?? But the New Jersey Constitution clearly states that NJ taxpayers are not responsible for any debt not approved by the voters.
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New Jersey voters never approved most of the “bonded debt”.?? A lot of it is in junk bonds issued by the EDA (Economic Development Authority) without voter approval.?? Why is Corzine fighting so hard to pay off this debt??? Is he trying to protect his old friends on Wall Street who made fortunes putting those deals together?
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Of course, NJ voters never agreed to give 9% pension hikes, or free medical benefits after the stock market crash of 2001 made our pension funds insolvent.
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Corzine says he is “morally committed” to pay those pensions and benefits, even if we are not legally obligated to do so.? Why is it moral to trash our Constitution so that many government employees make more money retired, than most New Jersey citizens earn when they are working?
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The poster child, of course, is Robert Codey, the Senate President’s brother.?? He never earned more than $45,000 a year during most of his career, but retired at age 56 with a $98,000 a year pension plus free medical benefits!
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What about Corzine’s “necessary investments for our future”.?? We can do without his proposed 100,000 units of low income government housing in every suburban town (built by union contractors).?? We can do without “free” daycare centers in every public school (also built by union contractors) and staffed with NJEA members with high pay, pensions, and benefits.
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If we had less government and lower taxes most people in New Jersey could afford their own homes and daycare.?? Then we would not have to choose between more government spending or following our NJ Constitution.

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