Michael Brendan Dougherty profiled Garden State Governor Chris Christie in TAC‘s August issue:
New Jersey governor Chris Christie wasn’t supposed to become a hero for the Right. He wouldn’t even accept the label “conservative” during his campaign.
He was a washed-up local pol turned lobbyist but with enough connections to become George W. Bush’s top attorney in Jersey. Christie made some headlines going after political corruption; to no one’s surprise, prosecutable officials are more common than tollbooths in New Jersey. Then he beat an incumbent governor in a terrible year for incumbents. So what? Christie was an overweight, less heroic, bridge-and-tunnel version of Rudy Giuliani.
But soon videos of his confrontations with teachers, unions, and reporters began making their way onto YouTube, and Christie became a conservative sensation. The most recent has him calling the state’s powerful teachers’ union a bully, with children and taxpayers as its victims. “You punch them? I punch you,” Christie threatens, pointing his finger. Former Bush spokesman Ed Gillespie says Christie’s fight to tame the public-sector union “may be the most important public-policy debate in the country right now.”
It may very well be. As I detailed in a post this week titled “The Next Class War?” public-sector employees now have an inordinate influence on politics as they campaign to keep their jobs, with pay and benefits demonstrably higher than similar jobs in the private sector.
Chris Christie is one of the leaders in that class war, which in New Jersey is about to escalate. Today, the Christie administration released a report (PDF) that recommends privatizing a whole host of services to save $210 million a year. The Newark Star-Ledger provides some of the highlights:
New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today.State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even Turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls.
As the Star-Ledger notes, union officials are already complaining. Don’t expect them to give up their pay premium without a nasty fight. (And speaking of nasty political fights in New Jersey, a debate on the Senate floor over education funding almost got physical yesterday.)