Election 2011: Key Issues

Although Governor Chris Christie’s name won’t appear on the ballot, tomorrow’s election is widely expected to be a referendum on his performance in the two years since he promised to turn Trenton upside down. Here is a brief rundown of the key issues likely on the minds of voters eager to air their grievances in the polling booths.

Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a town hall meeting in Union City, New Jersey, February 9, 2011. Photographed by Luigi Novi.

Budget Cuts
Last December in an interview for CBS’ 60 Minutes, Governor Christie said that a “day of reckoning” had come for the state’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit. Christie slashed $3 billion in funding for education, public employee benefits, police and fire services, public health services, and more, angering unions and state employees across New Jersey.

Property Tax Relief
Earlier this summer, when Governor Christie signed a bill overhauling state employee benefit payment plans, raising the ire of unions, he heralded the occasion as “an important moment for the state of New Jersey, for its citizens, its taxpayers.” But Christie also warned that taxpayers won’t see the effect until late in the summer of 2012, and many homeowners in New Jersey are anxious for immediate relief.

ARC Tunnel
One of Christie’s highest profile cuts came in October of 2010 when he formally cancelled plans for a new commuter rail tunnel, known as the ARC Tunnel, under the Hudson River that would have doubled the number of trains running to and from Manhattan and New Jersey during weekday rush hours.

In September, New Jersey’s unemployment rate (9.2%) stood a full percentage point higher than the national average. Gains in the private sector were encouraging (32,600 jobs created since January, 2011) but have been cancelled out by heavy losses in the public sector due to Governor Christie’s $3 billion in cuts to public programs.

This year lawmakers in Trenton convened to redraw the map of New Jersey congressional districts following the 2010 Census. While the new district borders are supposed to be decided upon by a panel of five Democrats and five Republicans from the General Assembly and Senate, it was reported that Governor Christie made a surprise appearance at a closed door Apportionment Committee session in March. The move angered Democrats and Republicans alike, since redistricting is solely a legislative prerogative. On his way out of the session the typically exuberant governor dodged reporters, raising eyebrows. In the end, the Apportionment Committee could not agree on a compromise map, so the decision fell to a State Supreme Court tie breaker, Rutgers professor Alan Rosenthal, who selected the Democrats’ map.

Sports Betting
Gambling on sporting events is illegal in the state of New Jersey, but last week Governor Christie endorsed legalizing the pastime, explaining his willingness to work with legislators to make sports gambling legal in New Jersey if Public Question 1, a referendum on Tuesday’s ballot that would set the stage for legalized betting, passes.