From 2001 Until Today
After Christine Todd Whitman resigned as governor on January 31, 2001 to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Senate President Donald DiFrancesco, per the succession rules at the time, became governor for the remainder of Whitman’s term before Democrat Jim McGreevey took office in January 2002. Subsequent New Jersey governors have included Democrats Richard Codey (who took over after McGreevey’s resignation in 2004) and Jon Corzine (2006-2010), and the current Republican governor, Chris Christie (2010-present). Each of these governors faced significant fiscal challenges and budget crises. New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded numerous times in recent years, while governors have frequently resolved budget deficits by borrowing money and/or underfunding the state’s pension system. Identifying solutions is more difficult than identifying the problems, but most onlookers agree that unless significant action is taken, a fiscal crisis could be imminent. The experience and reflections of those who have faced these issues in the previous decades can be valuable resources, both for better understanding the roots of the problem and for evaluating potential solutions.
Reflections and Advice
Resolution—or at least mitigation—of the state’s fiscal issues will require not only strong leadership but also political courage. Many of the necessary decisions are likely to be unpopular and potentially politically damaging. Once again, however, the state’s leaders can draw on the experiences of the past for lessons on educating the public, mobilizing support (or at least minimizing opposition), and keeping the needs and wants of the state’s citizens in perspective.