WASHINGTON -- Thomas Jefferson said that a revolution now and then is a good thing, and that is what's happening in states around the country that are dramatically cutting their budgets.
Actually, stage one of this grassroots revolution was fought last November in the midterm elections when Republicans won control of the House, strengthened their numbers in the Senate, elected a lot of governors in once-Democratic strongholds and took over a bunch of state legislatures, too.
The rallying cry of "Don't tread on me" was replaced with "End tax, spend and borrow" government, and we're seeing the results of this huge power shift in state capitols, where elected officials are faithfully carrying out the demands of the people.
Not only is spending being cut from Wisconsin to New York, but rigged labor laws are being challenged and changed to curtail collective union bargaining power over costly, ever-increasing pay and benefits that have fueled higher deficits, taxes and deepening debt.
While the major part of the revolution was fought and won last fall, it really began in the off-year election of 2009 in heavily Democratic New Jersey. That's where Republican Chris Christie a beefy, blunt-talking, former U.S. prosecutor who has put corrupt lawmakers from both parties behind bars, won the governorship on a no-more-Mr.-Nice=y, anti-tax-and=end agenda.
He faced a huge fiscal challenge. Under the Democrats' long tax and spend reign, New Jersey taxpayers had the highest state and local tax burden in the country -- gobbling up 12.2 percent of their income in fiscal 2009, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.
Christie went toe-to-toe with his state's long-entrenched political power structure, including its powerful labor unions, and won budget-cutting concessions, becoming a heroic role model for governors around the country and a possible presidential challenger in the future.
This year he is proposing that unionized government employees kick in more of what they pay for health insurance as part of a plan to reduce property taxes that are among the highest in the country.
What started in New Jersey -- a budget battle that continues there -- has spread to Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, where GOP Gov. Scott Walker is also cutting spending and even some taxes to boost economic growth and job creation. And he is also taking on the labor unions, asking government workers to pay a fair share of their health insurance premiums and pension contributions, just as workers do in the private sector.
But he is also seeking to restrict the union's collective-bargaining powers in a number of areas, though not including pay, to keep the lid on future costs.
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