What's the modern governor to do? You're a star on the national media circuit, you're doing your best attack dog act for Mitt Romney, and you want to be the Republican nominee for President in 2016 (because deep down you know that Romney's a loser). You've outwitted those pesky Democrats, especially Steve Sweeney (as New Jersey's own Cliff Barnes) and you need some winning issues.
Eureka! Marriage equality, tax cuts, and the New Jersey Education Association.
The veto of the marriage equality bill was nothing more than a sop to the right wing for 2016. Even Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein acknowledged that, after Christie's action, when he said:
That doesn't obviate the pain of the Governor's veto. Because I do know him, I also know he is not some anti-LGBT nut. He is no Rick Santorum. Frankly, I don't think Chris Christie has an anti-gay bone in his body, however much I cannot say the same about his impending veto. His veto will be a brutally anti-gay act, pure and simple.
So if he's not anti-gay, why else would he veto a bill that has the support of the people through their representatives (because we do live in a republic, you know)? And why else would he call for a referendum, even though the people have spoken through their representatives (there's that pesky republic thing again. You'd think a Republican would acknowledge that)? As for his promise to appoint an ombudsman to make sure that gay couples who've had a civil union get equal protection, why would a small government conservative want to add another layer of bureaucracy? And if hospitals and government officials won't recognize civil unions, would they tremble at the thought of an ombudsman (ombudsperson)? I think not.
Likewise, the 10% tax cut that the governor proposed in his budget is also chum for the right wing sharks. I'm sure Christie saw what happened when Rick Santorum admitted voting for the No Child Left Behind Act in Wednesday's GOP debate and the continued flaying of Mitt Romney, whose health care plan had the audacity to cover uninsured people in Massachusetts who, get this!, wanted to see doctors and get healthy (snort. Sorry).
Desperate to avoid those catastrophes, the governor wants to bestow between $80.50 ($50,000 income) and $275 ($100,000 income) dollars after three years on New Jersey's beleaguered taxpayers as a reward for voting for him. Never mind that most New Jerseyans want a cut in their property taxes. That would be too expensive. But the governor does have an ally in ignorance, as most of those polled expected their tax cut to be around $746. By the time they figure out the ruse, Christie will be in Iowa.
When all else fails, though, the governor can always cart out the NJEA, accuse it of some heinous misdeed and convince a few people that the suburban school they send their child to would be much better if teachers had their pay and benefits cut and their job security determined by whether their child had eaten a good breakfast so they perform well on the standardized test.
The diversion this time was Christie's response to the remark made by NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano and the aftermath, which included GOP-backed operatives staking out NJEA headquarters with cameras, hoping to find Giordano making some rich person-type gaffe.
The real issue, which will bubble to the top this spring, is how to evaluate teachers. Christie refuses to involve educators in this discussion and says that he wants merit pay, an end to negotiated sick day rules and expanded power for principals to determine which teachers keep their jobs and which do not.
Never mind that expanded standardized testing will destroy the collegial, creative character of public schools.
Never mind that testing will overwhelm the curriculum and be an end unto itself as technology makes it easier to administer these exams.
Never mind that merit pay as both a motivator and evaluation outcome can be summed up in three distinct words: It doesn't work.
Never mind that giving principals the power to hire and fire with little oversight, even from superintendents, is one of the worst ideas to come sauntering down the pike since Wall Street developed securities based on unsustainable mortgages.
Ask any 10 teachers if this is a good idea. They'll only answer you under two conditions: they already have tenure AND they're 100% sure that this proposal will go nowhere. Otherwise, don't be offended by their silence or the tight smile and the "doesn't matter to me" lie they'll tell you.
What can we gather from Christie's actions over the past few months? That the road to 2016 does indeed run through Trenton, and the reason he's started so early is that there's always traffic or an accident or potholes to slow down even the most determined driver. This governor, though, will not be deterred. He's laid out an agenda sure to please enough conservatives that he's safe to nominate four years from now.
Meanwhile, New Jersey's citizens will continue to have high property taxes, its teachers will be guinea pigs in an experiment based on faulty data and the whims of administrators, and an entire class of people will be denied equality and civil rights.
The payout is between $80 and $275 dollars. The cost is enormous.
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