Partly to pay for teachers' benefits -- most contribute nothing to pay for their health insurance -- property taxes have increased 70 percent in 10 years, to an average annual cost to homeowners of $7,281. Christie proposes a 2.5 percent cap on annual increases.
Challenging teachers unions to live up to their cloying "it's really about the kids" rhetoric, he has told them to choose between a pay freeze and job cuts. Validating his criticism by their response to it, some Bergen County teachers encouraged students to cut classes and go to the football field to protest his policies, and a Bridgewater high school teacher showed students a union-made video critical of him. Christie notes that the $550,000 salary of the executive director of the teachers union is larger than the total cuts proposed for 190 of the state's 605 school districts.
He has received some support from the Democratic president of the state Senate, Stephen Sweeney, a leader of a local ironworkers union. This suggests waning solidarity between unionized private-sector workers who are weary of paying ever-higher taxes to enrich unionized public employees.
New Jersey's governors are the nation's strongest -- American Caesars, really -- who can veto line items and even rewrite legislative language. Christie is using his power to remind New Jersey that wealth goes where it is welcome and stays where it is well-treated. Prosperous states are practicing, at the expense of slow learners like New Jersey, "entrepreneurial federalism" -- competing to have the most enticing business climate.
Christies predecessor addressed a huge unionized rally of public employees, vowing to "fight for a fair contract." Who was he going to fight? The negotiator across the table would be ... himself.
Saying "subtlety is not going to win this fight," Christie notes that New Jersey's police officers, the nation's highest paid, can retire after 25 years at 65 percent of their highest salary. In the state that has the nation's fourth-highest percentage (66) of public employees who are unionized, he has joined the struggle that will dominate the nation's domestic policymaking in this decade -- the struggle to break the ruinous collaboration between elected officials and unionized state and local workers whose affections the officials purchase with taxpayers' money.