To many -- primarily his Republican supporters -- that was a landslide and gave him a mandate. But the math is pretty simple: More than half of the state's voters backed someone other than Christie and -- a key point that has been lost in the discussion -- only one Assembly seat changed parties. Christie's win, it would seem, had more to do with him not being the other guy.
And yet, he has been governing aggressively from the right, using a hatchet to chop the state budget into bits, apparently ready to make Grover Norquist's goal of a government small enough to drown in a bath tub a reality.
So, what has been the response? The state's papers (aside from conservative Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine and me) have given him a fairly wide berth. The public, however, appears to have a far less generous view.
Monmouth University released its latest poll today, showing that the governor's approval rating has been on the decline and that many are dissatisfied with his budget:
When Governor Chris Christie unveiled his first state budget last month, he claimed the cuts were tough but fair. The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll finds that Garden State residents agree with only half of that assessment. The cuts may be tough, but New Jerseyans see some groups, including teachers, as being disproportionately hurt. The poll also finds the governor coming up with the short end of the stick in his battle with the state teachers’ union.To be fair, the governor had a disastrous fiscal situation to deal with. The state has been spending more than it has been taking in for years, and it has been clear since the day Jon Corzine took office in 2006 that something had to be done. To his credit, Gov. Christie is attempting to put the state on sounder fiscal footing; his approach, however, ignores public priorities and has little to do with fairness.
Governor Christie’s job rating currently stands at 41% approve to 44% disapprove among all state residents, and 42% to 44% among registered voters. As a comparison, 34% of New Jerseyans gave thumbs up to the prior governor, Jon Corzine, at the same point in his term, while 37% gave a negative rating.
The driving force behind public opinion on the governor is his budget plan, something that an overwhelming 9-in-10 New Jerseyans have been paying some attention to. Governor Christie’s proposal gets mixed reviews. Among those aware of Christie’s budget plan, 46% say that his proposal is the product of tough and thoughtful choices, while an identical 46% see it as more of the same old political dealings. This may not represent an overwhelming endorsement of the incumbent’s plan, but it is decidedly more positive than opinion of Jon Corzine’s first budget, which only 32% saw as tough and thoughtful, compared to fully 60% who felt it was the product of backroom deals.
Furthermore, 22% of the public say they are satisfied with Chris Christie’s budget plan and another 32% say they can live with it even if they are not necessarily satisfied. However, a sizable 44% report being dissatisfied with the governor’s proposal. Again, these numbers are not great, but slightly better than his predecessor’s – only 10% of New Jerseyans were satisfied with Corzine’s initial budget, while 41% were dissatisfied.
I've written about this before -- including yesterday -- but this budget leaves tax revenue on the table in the form of the expired income tax surcharge on those making more than $400,000. It slashes spending on public education (while leaving the charter school law in place, meaning that charters can form and ultimately siphon money from traditional public schools); asks poor seniors to pay fees for services and so on. There is a lot of pain being spread here, but the folks at the upper end of the income bracket, the ones most able to afford cuts, are the ones being spared.
We will have three more years of this -- unless this petition to recall the governor catches fire (not likely). The best hope is a concerted and focused campaign by New Jersey voters to push back against the governor's budget, to make it clear that the priorities he has outlined in his spending plan are not priorities supported by a majority of New Jerseyans and to give support to legislators of either party who are willing to stand up and make it clear that they will not support the budget.