STATE – Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie have drastically different views on the state’s job market during the current recession.
While Corzine touts two recently-signed stimulus bills, Christie argues that high taxes and burdensome regulation have left local businesses unable to cope with the national recession.
Corzine believes his efforts are working. “Our economy, while struggling, is outperforming the nation and other urban centers almost on every criteria,” he said at a campaign appearance last month.
Christie voiced a different view at a recent campaign appearance. “[Corzine] believes that the course that we are on is a course that is leading New Jersey to a time of greater prosperity, that it’s going to lead to a time of economic growth. He really is in another world,” Christie said.
Jobs and the recession are one of the leading issues in the gubernatorial race this year. The state’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in June, the highest it has been in 32 years. Private sector employment is at its lowest level since January 1999.
New Jersey’s economy lost 128,700 jobs in Corzine’s first 3 ½ years as governor. Since the start of 2006, New Jersey has lost 3.17 percent of its job base – worse than 32 other states.
Last fall, the governor signed a stimulus package that offered $3,000 grants to businesses that created jobs. According to Jerold Zaro, chief of the Governor’s Office of Economic Growth, 17,000 jobs have resulted from that program, which is likely to be renewed.
In July, Corzine signed a second stimulus package that included $1.5 billion in tax credits for large projects in nine cities and would help projects in other locales by allowing new would-be tax revenue to instead finance the development. Environmentalists blasted the measure, but Zaro, who has headed real estate development firms in the private sector, says that it will help the economy rebound.
Yet Moody’s Investors Service lowered its outlook for New Jersey’s credit rating last week and said the state’s economic recovery will trail the national pace, in part because employment growth is forecast “among the lowest in the nation through 2013.”
Christie’s solution is to cut government spending, in part by eliminating two-thirds of political appointees and some union jobs, cut taxes and reduce regulation in an effort to stimulate the economy.
“There are very simple solutions—tried and true and tested solutions over the course of our state’s history—that can be implemented,” Christie said. “These will not be easy to implement. They are simple, but they’re not easy, because of special interests that have arrayed themselves on State Street in Trenton.”
Yet while Christie tries to portray himself as a political outsider, he has seen his own fundraising ethics called into question, leaving voters to wonder if Christie will truly be free of entanglements.
As U.S. Attorney, Christie awarded a $3 million no-bid contract to Stern & Kilcullen to monitor the state’s medical school. The law firm’s principal, Herb Stern, his law partner John Inglesino and their wives each later gave the maximum $2,300 donation allowed to Christie’s campaign for governor.
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