November 7, 1989 – January 18, 1994
Congressman James J. Florio is elected Governor of New Jersey, defeating Republican Congressman James Courter by a 62-38% margin.
Democrats take control of the Assembly by winning 44 of the 80 seats. The Republicans previously held a 41-39 margin. The Democrats maintain control of the State Senate by a 23-17 margin.
Governor-elect Florio meets with reporters to declare that his first priorities in office will be to bring down high automobile-insurance premiums and to insure a smooth transition from the administration of Gov. Thomas H. Kean. He also announces the appointment of a transition team.
Governor-elect Florio meets with Governor Kean at the Governor’s office in Newark. The former rivals meet for 90 minutes to map out an orderly transition that Mr. Kean promised would be the smoothest in New Jersey history.
Pledging leadership that is ”disciplined, tough, persistent and honest,” James Joseph Florio takes the oath of office as the 49th governor of New Jersey and in his Inaugural Address calls for a special session of the Legislature the next week to solve the problem of high automobile insurance rates.
Governor Florio announces that his administration will continue a state spending freeze as a first step toward addressing a growing budget shortfall.
Governor Florio announces the signing of an executive order expanding financial disclosure requirements for public officials.
Speaking to a special joint session of the Legislature on his sixth day in office, Governor Florio proposes that drivers be allowed to choose health-insurance rather than automobile-insurance coverage for injuries in automobile accidents, a move that the Governor said would cut costs.
Governor Florio appoints an environmental prosecutor to coordinate enforcement of New Jersey’s environmental laws and regulations.
Governor Florio signs automobile insurance reform legislation that the Administration says will reduce premiums for New Jersey’s drivers by 20 percent in one year.
In his Budget Message to the Legislature, Governor Florio proposes a $12.7 billion budget with severe cuts in state aid and government spending and new and increased taxes.
”We are confronted by harsh realities and hard decisions,” Mr. Florio says in an address to a joint session of the Senate and Assembly. ”The time has come to face them. As one of my heroes, the great heavyweight Joe Louis, used to say: ‘You can run but you can’t hide.’”
Governor Florio signs what he calls “the toughest clean water enforcement laws in the United States,” the Clean Water Enforcement Act. The new law strengthens enforcement of the state’s pollution laws, and imposes mandatory fines for violations of permit conditions that allow businesses and sewage treatment plants to dump wastewater into coastal waters, rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater.
Governor Florio signs the nation’s toughest law on assault firearms, immediately banning their sale and giving current owners one year to sell or disarm them or register them as target-shooting weapons.
The New Jersey Supreme Court declares in a landmark ruling that the state’s system of financing education is unconstitutional as applied to the 28 poorest school districts and the 265 richest. The 7-0 ruling in the case known as Abbott vs. Burke gives the Legislature a year to come up with a plan that eliminates minimum aid and raises spending in the 28 districts to the average amount spent in the state’s wealthiest districts.
Governor Florio signs a “harsh, no-growth” $12.7 billion budget for Fiscal Year 1991. He also signs bills to impose $1.5 billion in new and higher taxes.
Governor Florio signs a new school funding formula intended to equalize educational opportunities among rich and poor school districts, and vows to guard against any “waste” of the additional $1.1 billion in state aid the new Quality Education Act provides.
Governor Florio signs a bill to revise the state’s income tax rates, saying the law will “bring fairness to our income tax system, and larger homestead rebates for the people who need them most.” In a State House ceremony, Governor Florio says the law will require only 17 percent of the state’s income taxpayers to pay more, while the other 83 percent will see no increase and will reap benefits through homestead rebates, lower property taxes and improved public schools.
The second large anti-tax rally in three months is held in Trenton. State Police estimate the turnout at 4,000 while organizers of the Hands Across New Jersey movement say it is closer to 6,000 to 8,000.
US Senator Bill Bradley narrowly wins re-election over Christine Todd Whitman, a former Somerset County freeholder and former president of the state Board of Public Utilities. The next day, Governor Florio says voters sent a “humbling message” aimed at him and his policies.
Governor Florio says: “I got the message; the results were really directed at me and the policies of my administration.”
Governor Florio delivers his State of the State Message to the Legislature. The Governor says: “1990, to say the least, wasn’t a year for the fainthearted.” He proposes using hundreds of millions of dollars from the Transportation Trust Fund for new highway construction and the creation of 7,000 new jobs, a $250 million program to help middle-income residents buy their first homes, an end to the state’s unpopular system of car inspections, and a savings-bond program to help families send their children to college.
Governor Florio delivers his Budget Message to the Legislature. He says his proposed $15 billion state budget for the next fiscal year will contain the largest property tax relief program in state history, as well as the largest reduction in government spending in 40 years.
Governor Florio signs into law a plan to shift $360 million in school aid to property tax relief.
The State Supreme Court upholds Governor Florio’s auto insurance reform law, which the Governor said will guarantee premium reductions averaging $222 for good drivers.
Governor Florio signs a state budget of nearly $15.2 billion that dedicates $1 billion to property tax relief and cuts an estimated 3,000 or more workers from the state payroll. The budget also includes the $400 million sale of a section of highway in Bergen County to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Governor Florio signs health care reform legislation that lays “a foundation for universal health care in New Jersey.” The new law mandates low-cost health insurance programs and expanded state and federal medical services for the poor.
Governor Florio vetoes a bill that would have significantly weakened the state’s tough ban on assault rifles.
Governor Florio signs the state’s first “living will” law.
Republicans win veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Legislature. In the Senate, they win 11 seats held by Democratic incumbents to achieve a 27-13 majority. Democrats had held a 23-17 majority before the election. The Republicans will hold a 58-22 majority in the Assembly. Democrats held a 43-37 majority before the election.
Governor Florio proposes job-producing and economic development initiatives in his State of the State message. Republicans take control of Legislature.
Governor Florio signs a civil rights bill that extends protection to gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, saying that “arbitrary discrimination of any kind” is not welcomed in New Jersey. The amendment to New Jersey’s law against discrimination makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, housing, public accommodations and public contracts against anyone based on sexual orientation.
Governor Florio signs a package of bills aimed at breaking the “cycle of welfare dependency,” making New Jersey the first state to deny benefits to children conceived once a mother starts collecting benefits
In his Budget Message, Governor Florio proposes a $16 billion budget for fiscal 1993 that calls for no new taxes and no layoffs and counts on more than $1 billion in revenues freed up by a proposed restructuring of the state pension system.
Governor Florio conditionally vetoes legislation rolling back the sales tax from 7 to 6 percent on July 1.
The Legislature overrides Governor Florio’s conditional veto of the sales tax rollback. The Assembly votes 59-12 in favor of the override. The measure needed 54 votes. In the Senate vote, where 27 votes are required for an override, the vote was 29 in favor, two opposed and nine abstentions.
Governor Florio signs legislation creating an Economic Recovery Fund, a new funding source to spur jobs and economic growth across the state.
Governor Florio becomes the first New Jersey governor in history to issue an absolute veto of a state budget when he rejects a proposed $14.9 billion Republican spending plan after last-ditch negotiations with legislative leaders failed to generate a compromise.
The Legislature adopts a $14.9 billion state budget by overriding Governor Florio’s veto of the spending plan. This is the first New Jersey budget ever enacted without a governor’s support.
The Legislature votes to repeal Governor Florio’s two-year-old ban on military-style assault weapons.
In his State of the State message, Governor Florio outlines a program designed to turn New Jersey into a world center for environmental technology. He also recommends a $200 million bond issue to help New Jersey’s universities and colleges upgrade their high-tech labs and classrooms to “mirror the workplaces of the future so we can attract high- skill jobs to our state.”
Governor Florio signs a compromise school funding measure that boosts state aid by $291 million in the next year and gives the Legislature and administration another year to devise a permanent education funding formula.
In his Budget Message, Governor Florio proposes a $15.7 billion budget for fiscal year 1994 that would increase state spending by $900 million while avoiding tax hikes, layoffs or fare hikes for NJ Transit riders.
The Senate votes not to overturn the ban on assault weapons. The Assembly had voted to override the ban in February.
Governor Florio formally announces his candidacy for a second term.
Governor Florio accepts the “Profiles in Courage” award from the Kennedy family, saying he hopes the day would come when politicians would not have to be honored for sticking to their principles. “I tell you, I look forward to the day when public servants who follow the dictates of their conscience are not regarded as heroes worthy of awards, but simply as men and women who are worthy of the offices to which they’ve been entrusted,” he says in a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library.
Christine Todd Whitman wins the Republican gubernatorial primary. In doing so, she becomes the first woman in New Jersey to win a major party’s gubernatorial nomination.
Governor Florio signs the $15.9 billion budget approved by the Legislature. In a statement, he says: “I believe this budget represents a clear victory for cooperation and consensus over the forces of gridlock and division.”
Christine Todd Whitman wins a narrow, one percentage point, victory over Governor Florio. She will become New Jersey’s first woman governor and the first candidate to defeat an incumbent governor office in a general election. Republicans maintain control of both houses of the Legislature, but lose their veto-proof majority in the Assembly.
In his final State of the State message, Governor Florio attacks the principle of home rule as a prime cause of high property taxes, and in one of his last acts of office, orders all state agencies to follow a policy that directs housing, highway, transportation, water and sewer funds to already developed areas.
Christine Todd Whitman is sworn in as New Jersey’s 50th governor and its first female chief executive.