Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Finally, A Governor Who Calls It Like It Is to Teacher's Unions

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has had it and he is not afraid to let everyone know it. Elected last year, Christie has spent the early part of his first six months fighting a budget battle of enormous proportions. The state has a budget deficit of $10.7 billion on a budget of $29.3. In math terms, the New Jersey deficit is 36.5% of the budget.

Like most states, New Jersey spends the most on education and health care, but faces massive unfunded pension liabilities and has been the victim of poor fiscal management and over taxation to pay for that bad fiscal management. Christie, a father of young children, is telling it like it is and talking to the citizens of New Jersey in a frank and open manner. Christie is a breath of fresh air in Trenton and I hope a harbinger of things to come in many state capitals--including my own of Annapolis.

But one thing I like about Christie is that he isn't taking some of the rhetoric of special interests (on either side of the aisle) lying down. For example, like most other states, with education such a massive expenditure for the states, the state teacher's union usually has a great deal of clout in state politics. Almost as sure as the sun rising in the east, teacher's unions will ask for pay increases, essentially free health care, massive guaranteed, defined-benefit pension plans paid for by the taxpayers and other perks. And as sure as that same solar rising, the teacher's union rhetoric will say "its for the kids!" Unlike a lot of his peers, Governor Christie is calling "B.S." on that statement. His reply, collected by William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal, was:
"The real question is, who's for the kids, and who's for their raises? This isn't about the kids. Let's dispense with that portion of the argument. Don't let them tell you that ever again while they are reaching into your pockets."
Governor Christie's proposal is that the teachers take a one (1) year pay freeze and start contributing to their own health care (just like every other private sector employer). You would think Governor Christie was asking the teacher's union to pay a year's salary to the state, the howling and hollering could be heard in Maryland.

In reality, I don't mind the teacher's union lobbying for more pay--in essence that is what the union is for. But I absolutely hate with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns the argument that paying more money to teachers is about the kids. Such a statement is the biggest political lie on the state level that seems to never get called. Everyone assumes and accepts that the teacher's union cares about the kids because well, "they are teachers, right." Well yes, they are teachers, but that doesn't mean that union leadership can't be as full of B.S. as the next lobbyist.

Governor Christie has called B.S. on the teacher's union and with New Jersey in the state that it is in, Christie has laid down the marker. Governor Christie has told the citizens of New Jersey that they have been fooled by a siren's song while the siren has been picking their pocket for decades. Well, at least Governor Christie has put candle wax into his ears and won't be lulled onto the fiscal rocks by the teacher's union song any longer. I hope he turns New Jersey around, because we could use a guy like Governor Christie in the White House in a few years.

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