New Jersey's Public Sector Unions Are Bankrupting the State by Kevin Mooney 28 Sep 2011 post a comment Share This: Viewed from outside of N.J., Gov. Christ Christie is seen a conservative champion, but it is worth recalling that he was actually challenged from his right in that state’s Republican primary for governor. While Christie certainly deserves credit for defying union bosses and for challenging N.J.’s highly activist court, the state still has a long distance to travel back in the direction of fiscal stability. Americans for Prosperity (AFP), in partnership with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), has just released a new report entitled: “New Jersey’s Long Road Ahead: Taxpayers vs. Politicians and Unions.” The report opens with some sobering statistics: “New Jersey residents pay the highest property taxes in the nation—averaging $7,300 per homeowner.2The state has the highest per-pupil spending at $17,600 per student. The unemployment rate is 9.1 percent and continues to exceed the national average. The state’s long-term debt is one of the highest in the country.” A key culprit here is the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the power state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). While it has repeatedly cowed top elected officials in both major parties into supporting lavish taxpayer funded benefits, it would seem that the political climate has finally shifted in the direction of reform and fiscal renewal. NJEA demands did not sit well with the public. That’s why Steve Lonegan, who heads up the NJ chapter of AFP, would like to see more done to scale back union power and prioritize taxpayer interests. “The impact of unions continues,” Lonegan said at a press conference in Trenton yesterday as the report was released. “Governor Christie has not gone far enough. The influence of public sector unions makes New Jersey “a non-Right-to-Work state on steroids.” Lonegan, who previously served as mayor of Bogota, was Christie’s primary opponent. Vincent Vernuccio, who co-authored the report, said the tight relationship between public sector unions and the political figures they help elect has created “a climate of “higher taxes and regulation, which consistently puts taxpayers second.” Vernuccio, works as a legal counsel for labor policy at CEI. His new WorkplaceChoice.org site ranks New Jersey near the bottom of its Big Labor versus Taxpayers Index, which would explain why so many residents feel compelled to leave. The NJ Supreme Court also came in for criticism during the press conference. The state’s eroding economic position can be attributed in no small part to a series of court rulings that equate higher property taxes and higher spending with an effective education, Phil Kerpen, AFP’s vice-president of policy explained. He called on elected officials to push back against the court’s activist rulings and to reassert their authority in the legislative arena. This latest report is part of an on-going series, which is available for download at AFP’s Liberty Library. I thank Mayor Lonegan, AFP and CEI for involving me in this project.