After watching New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shave off $900 million from the Democrats’ proposed budget(a budget that Christie dubbed “unconstitutional”), Senate President Stephen Sweeney expressed his ire in a tirade laced with less than pretty language while speaking to reporters. In the previous week, Sweeney had “stuck his neck out to support Christie’s agenda” by backing a controversial reform requiring state employees to pay more for their pension and health benefits. But as the Star-Ledger reports, Sweeney described last Friday as the “most disappointing day”in his legislative career and Christie’s cuts as “mean-spirited” and “cruel”:
“This is all about him being a bully and a punk,” he said in an interview Friday.
“I wanted to punch him in his head.”
…”You know who he reminds me of? Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ the mean old bastard who screws everybody….”
“Last night [last Thursday night, after he had read Christie’s line-item vetoes’ I couldn’t calm down. To prove a point to me — a guy who has stood side by side with him, and made tough decisions — for him to punish people to prove his political point? He’s just a rotten bastard to do what he did.”
Here’s the video:
The cuts are extensive and deliver the pain in some of the most challenged urban areas of New Jersey. Christie had promised $139 million in state aid to the state’s struggling cities, who face increased foreclosures and fast-declining real estate values. Camden, one of NJ’s poorest cities is only getting $10 million after Christie cut $139 million in state aid. Beleaguered Asbury Park lost $10.4 million in state aid. Christie also cut $50 million in extra state aid to already cash-strapped police departments dealing with rising crime and layoffs, says the Star-Ledger.
As Mayor Chris Bollwage, mayor of hard-pressed Elizabeth, puts it, “Christie’s budgeting priorities may be good for Iowa and New Hampshire but not the State of New Jersey.”
Sweeney is too right that Christie’s cuts hurt the most vulnerable, including the blind and visually impaired, elderly and the mentally ill, and abused children ($537,000 for a center for them is now gone). In a statement, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a long-time Christie foe, accuses Christie of “misogyny” and “bias against working-class New Jerseryans.” New Jersey’s state colleges will be raising tuition to cover huge cuts to their budgets with millions in funds to numerous scholarship programs gutted, including $2 million in aid to community colleges. I’ve been looking at the budgets for middle-class and more well-endowed towns and seeing blanks in the columns for “state aid.” School districts across the state lost a total of $493 million, which will play out in cuts to staff and services.
The New York Post quoted Sweeney as using far less polite language. As the New York Times says, after the governor’s office “scolded the State Senate president on Tuesday for calling the governor names and saying he wanted to punch him,” Sweeney responded with
“It’s pretty interesting, the stuff he’s said, and he’s lecturing me on language?”
This is indeed true. Christie has certainly been quite creative with his words, from labeling teachers “welfare queens” to telling an NJ mom to “mind her own beeswax” about where he sends his kids to school. I would even go so far as to say that he is a past-master of the in-your-face sound byte, regularly offering up catchy-sounding ripostes rather than offering actual, substantial answers about various issues. Christie says that he and his wife have chosen to send their four children to Catholic schools because “we believe a religious education should be part of our kids’ everyday education.” But, like House Speaker (and fellow Catholic) John A. Boehner, Christie needs a refresher course in the values and ethics of his religion — in Catholic Social Teaching 101 — himself.
However, I’m afraid that Sweeney’s firey ire, while well-meant, amounts to so much past-posting. Christie has not exactly been shy about his plans to cut spending in the name of “fiscal responsibility,” and he certainly has not kept his bombast, or his feelings for state Democrats, under wraps. Why did Sweeney wait till after the axe fell, with Christie out of the state on vacation (in, oh I don’t know where, Iowa, New Hampshire — guess the Jersey Shore doesn’t have enough beach real estate for our governor), to start playing the tough guy?
Senator Sweeney, you should’ve looked out for us a little bit. You know?
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Photo of New Jersey politicians with Sweeney second from the left by USDAgov