Governor Florio’s Second State of the State Message
January 14, 1992
Good afternoon, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature, Mr. Chief Justice, and members of the cabinet. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer my congratulations to the new legislators, especially those holding state legislative office for the first time.
I began my own career in public service right here in these chambers. Today this great hall stands renewed. It is a symbol of our history and the promise of New Jersey’s future.
For more than 200 years, New Jersey has pointed the way for our nation’s progress. We’re a state of industrious, inventive people. But today, unfortunately, the state of our state is troubled. You can see it on the faces of New Jersey’s hard-working men and women.
That’s the challenge you and I face – in this chamber and in our great state – to help the people of New Jersey.
To meet this challenge, we have to work harder to restore the vitality of our economy, to change the way government operates and to restore the people’s confidence in their government. I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m convinced we are up to the task.
Our common cause must be restoring hope and opportunity for all New Jerseyans. That means helping families feel secure again about their lives, and optimistic again about their children’s future.
I’ve been talking a lot with our state’s leaders in business, labor and higher education, about how to create jobs and restore economic opportunity. Some of the ideas you’ll hear today came from that group – the Governor’s Economic Conference. Some came from the people I’ve met on my travels around New Jersey; ordinary people with some extraordinary ideas.
Together they make up seven points of common sense, to create jobs and economic opportunity for New Jersey’s people.
First, we need to do more to get people back to work. New Jersey can’t fill the jobs gap alone, but we can show people how to create new jobs. Last year, more than 100 companies showed their faith in New Jersey by announcing plans to move or expand here. Last month, I wrote to the White House and asked for help to get our people back to work, with some strategic public-works investments. I still hope for a favorable response. But the bottom line is that we can’t afford to wait; and we won’t. Today, I’m urging the Legislature to create the New Jersey Economic Recovery Fund.
The fund will allow us to invest in public-private economic growth projects all over our state. Even more important, our $200 million Economic Recovery Fund will leverage $800 million in private investments. That will create 20,000 new jobs in construction right now, and 75,000 permanent, good-paying, productive jobs in fields from manufacturing, to the service industries, to the arts. To make sure the job is done right, I’ll assign it to an agency with a proven record for creating good jobs, fast: our Economic Development Authority – EDA. Last year, EDA provided a record number of businesses with the loans they need to grow and expand.
We can finance our Economic Recovery Fund with money we’ll receive from a good deal that we negotiated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Our first check from the Port Authority arrives in six weeks. I’d like to see the fund in place by then, so we can get people back to work right away. The Economic Recovery Fund will enable New Jersey to take giant steps to a better future.
I’m asking you to make our Economic Recovery Fund your number one priority.
Second, in New jersey, transportation is fundamental. By strengthening our transportation network, we improve our quality of life, boost our economy, and create jobs. That’s what we’ve done for the past two years. It has enabled us to create 12,000 jobs, and pump millions into our economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, these aren’t make-work projects. We’re straightening out traffic circles, and adding new lanes to get our cars moving. We’re widening Route 1 in Middlesex County. We’re reconstructing the Somerville Circle. We’ve opened Route 18 in Monmouth County. We opened the first commuter rail line, from Monmouth to Hudson County, in 25 years. And we’re working on hundreds of other projects, to keep New Jersey moving.
Today, I’m calling on the Legislature to eliminate the restrictions, once and for all, on the state Transportation Trust Fund.
Freeing those dollars will create 13,000 jobs for the people of New Jersey over the next three years. This one step will build a bulkhead of jobs, wages and spending to help fight the recession.
Third, if New Jersey’s people are going to remain competitive in a high-tech economy, we need to invest in the skills of our workers.
That’s why I’m urging this Legislature to support creation of a New Skills Partnership. The New Skills Partnership will allow us to train 100,000 workers in the skills it takes to win in the marketplace. We can work with business, labor and higher education, to train people in the new skills they need to keep their jobs and get ahead. We can also help people who have lost their jobs move back into the workforce, and up the economic ladder.
We know that retraining programs work. We’ve seen them keep opportunity alive for workers and companies at places like the Ford Assembly plant in Edison, where workers used state Labor Department techniques to design training programs and improve their skills. These efforts convinced Ford to keep the Edison plant in operation, and impressed Mazda enough to have its pickup trucks built there.
Our New Skills Partnership is good for people. It’s good for business. It’s good for New Jersey. And it’s an investment that won’t burden businesses or employees. We can fund it by redirecting the money paid into our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is in excellent shape because of good management.
Fourth, we need to keep the American Dream of owning a home alive in New Jersey. Owning your own home is fundamental. It’s a key to financial security for our families. It’s what ties people to their communities.
That means holding the line this year on property taxes, because we can’t afford another decade of double-digit increases like we had in the ‘80’s. We also need to expand our First-Time Homebuyers Program. It’s the most ambitious of its kind in the country, and we’re proud of it. Let’s build on it.
Today, I’m directing Banking Commissioner Jeff Connor to work with the Legislature to craft a homebuyer’s tax credit program to help middle-class families.
Fifth, I think all of us would agree the over-riding problem with our health care system isn’t that we spend too little money; it’s that we waste too much.
Health care in the ‘90s is not a luxury. It’s a right.
I urge the Legislature to act on these critical issues:
We must find a new way to pay for health care for people who lack insurance. Making people who have insurance pay the bills for those who don’t’ isn’t fair and doesn’t work.
We must continue shifting the focus of health care to prevention.
And we must crack down on administrative overhead, high provider cost, and duplication of technology.
There’s a better way. New Jersey should take the lead in finding it. But the health care crisis is a national crisis. We all know that we’re not going to see that fundamental right of affordable health care become reality without a national response. I pledge to work vigorously with our Congressional delegation inn Washington to get the job done there –where it should be done.
Sixth, we also affirm another fundamental right in New Jersey, and that’s the right to go to college if you can do the work. We can’t guarantee success, but we can make sure that others get the same opportunity that many of us did in the state college system. Quality education at affordable costs – in today’s high-tech economy, education is more that a privilege, it’s a necessity.
We are also giving families a hand with tuition bills today, even during these difficult times. We’ve increased funding for tuition assistance programs. Today, we’re first in the nation in helping low- and moderate-income families pay for college. And we’re doing more than any state to keep college within reach of middle-class families. Through our New Jersey CLASS loan program we’re helping young people get the education they need to compete in a fast-paced world.
Using the good name and credit of the state, we can help these families without burdening the taxpayer. We’ve already loaned nearly all the dollars we had set aside, and there are still thousands of families who need help. So today, I am instructing our Higher Education Assistance Authority to go to the market for additional funds to loan to deserving middle-class families.
The Jersey Shore is the jewel in our crown, and the heart of our $13 billion a year tourism industry. I said last year that I wanted to sign legislation that protects the shore once and for all from unreasonable development. I’m looking forward to working with Senator Bennett and others in the Legislature to plug the loopholes in the law, so we can protect our coastline.
But overdevelopment isn’t the only thing that threatens the shore. We got a stark reminder of that on Halloween – and again two weeks ago – when fierce storms pummeled our beaches. Repairing the damage from the storms took nearly every dollar in an emergency state fund and placed a severe burden on local budgets.
I am calling on you to craft legislation that will ensure a stable source of funding to preserve our shore and our tourism industry. I’ve already talked to Senator Kyrillos, who is ready to take the lead.
Some people think government is indifferent. And most think government is irrelevant – out of touch with the things that are most important to our families.
When I talk to people about what government is doing for them, they tell me they’re sick and tired of bureaucracy and red tape. We began introducing the vigor of competition to government. Speaker Haytaian and others have expressed support for privatization. I want to work with him and others in the Legislature to expand privatization and make it work for New Jersey.
Government must be more responsible and accountable to the people.
I heard about a “runny-egg” rule publicized yesterday, that on its face appears unenforceable, intrusive, and frankly sounds silly. I am requesting the Health Department to review the advisability of converting this regulation into a public health advisory.
We also believe that any time taxpayer dollars change hands, those dollars must be carefully monitored – whether it’s a health care check to a doctor or a paycheck to a school administrator. We’ve been working hard to streamline government.
We’re also fighting for tougher accountability through tougher local ethics laws, by eliminating lifetime tenure for school superintendents, and by tightening reporting requirements for lobbyists. But we need to do more.
We need to slam the revolving door on officials who leave government service, and then use their new positions to profit at the public’s expense. We need to toughen reporting standards for special interest lobbyists. And we must add more public members to the state ethics commission, our watchdog agency for government officials and agencies.
Government must give people more freedom to make more choices about their lives. In New Jersey, our commitment to choice is clear. We’ve reaffirmed the fundamental right of women to choose how to handle their own reproductive health. And we will continue to stand strong for that right.
Government must allow people to exercise more authority in their communities. All across our state, people tell me they’re tired of Trenton’s top-down approach. They want to make decisions and participate in the process of governing in their own communities.
It’s time to involve parents, teachers, school administrators, and businesses in deciding how our schools operate. Some people call this school-site management. I call it common sense.
Above all, government must empower our people. It must give them greater say in the policies and process of government.
If the people are to be truly heard we must change government’s structure. Over and over, people tell me that if you want us to trust government, government has to trust us – and let us have a bigger say in New Jersey’s future.
That is why I am calling upon the Legislature to give the people of New Jersey the right to have their voices heard, and heeded, through Initiative and Referendum.
Believe me, I know the arguments against Initiative and Referendum. I’ve made a lot of them in the past. Yes, we will need safeguards against outrageous spending by special interests; and we will need a provision to make sure that everyone behind a ballot question fully discloses who they are and what they want. But I know the Legislature can fashion a system that works in the public interest, and I think you should.
And, while we’re at it, I urge debate to go forward on term limitations. I have met with people and groups who make very good arguments for this cause. Their proposals merit honest, open discussion in this chamber, and by the people of this state.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in talking with the people of New Jersey, I’ve gotten a lot of good advice about how to get our state back on track. And I’m prepared to accept their advice.
Our two parties have worked together before to support our people in times of crisis. It’s time again for a balanced government that works, not a paralyzed government that self-destructs. I pledge that as my goal in 1992. And I ask you to join with me and make it your pledge as well.
We must act worthy of ourselves. We must, and we will.