Governor Thomas H. Kean Administration Timeline



January 27
Thomas H. Kean announces he will be a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. During the primary election campaign, he supports reducing business taxes by 50 percent, cutting the sales tax by 20 percent, and phasing out the corporate net worth and estate taxes over a four-year period.

June 2
In the primary election, Kean wins the Republican gubernatorial nomination with 50% of the total vote, defeating his closest opponents, former Paterson Mayor Lawrence “Pat” Kramer and businessman Joseph “Bo” Sullivan, by a three to two margin. Congressman James Florio wins the Democratic nomination with 25 percent of the vote in a field of seven candidates, easily outpolling his closest opponents, Congressman Robert Roe and Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson.

August 26
Kean and Florio hold their first debate at Monmouth College.

September 7
President Ronald Reagan meets with Kean briefly at Newark Airport, poses for pictures and records a radio campaign spot for Kean’s campaign.

October 15
President Reagan again visits New Jersey to campaign on Kean’s behalf.

November 3
Gubernatorial returns are too close to declare a winner. Governor Byrne orders that election machines in Camden County be seized and impounded by State Police after the county’s extended delay in reporting its returns.

November 30
After a prolonged recount, Congressman Florio concedes the election, phoning Kean to congratulate him. The election results are certified with Kean winning 1,145,999 votes and Florio 1,144,202, giving Kean a plurality of 1,797 votes for a margin of 0.0759 percent of the over 2.3 million votes cast, the closest election in modern New Jersey history.


January 19
Thomas H. Kean is inaugurated as the 48th governor of New Jersey.

March 15
Governor Kean delivers his first budget message to the legislature, proposing a $6.37 billion budget, increasing spending by $630 million over the prior fiscal year and recommending an increase in the gasoline tax from 8 to 10 cents a gallon and a reduction of the corporate tax from 9 to 8.5 percent.

April 7
Governor Kean announces that he is appointing Nicholas F. Brady to the U.S. Senate seat vacated on March 11th when Senator Harrison A. Williams resigned. Williams had given up his seat prior to a Senate vote that had been expected to expel him relating to federal charges arising from the FBI Abscam sting and his conviction after a 1981 trial. Brady is sworn in on April 22.

June 8
In the primary election, Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick is nominated as the Republican candidate for US Senate, defeating Jeffrey Bell. Frank Lautenberg defeats nine other candidates to win the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat. James Courter, with Governor Kean’s endorsement, defeats Rodney Frelinghuysen for the Republican nomination to replace Fenwick as the 12th district Congressional representative.

After Governor Kean’s gas tax proposal fails in the State Senate, Democrats pass a budget that reduces Kean’s called-for increases in transportation funding, school aid, and prisons. Unable to come to an agreement with Democrats on taxes, Kean brings the budget into balance by using his line-item veto power, specifically by vetoing municipal and school aid. The argument over revenue would continue, however, stretching until the end of the calendar year when Kean would again call for an increase in the gas tax and threaten significant spending cuts, while Democrats continued to argue for an increase in the state income tax. After Kean vetoed an income tax increase passed by Democrats in December 1982, the two sides engaged in an all-night bargaining session on New Year’s Eve. That session resulted in legislation that increased the top income tax rate (on incomes greater than $50,000) from 2.5 to 3.5 percent and raised the sales tax from 5 to 6 percent. Kean was not happy with the result–he claimed to have signed the legislation while literally “holding his nose”–but felt it was better than the alternative.

July 23
Governor Kean issues Executive Order #12, creating a Commission on Science and Technology to recommend improvements in public and private research and technological capacity and facilities.

July 27
Attorney General Irwin Kimmelman files a lawsuit seeking to block federal approval of an auction to lease sites for oil and gas drilling off the New Jersey coast.

August 7
Governor Kean signs death penalty legislation, legalizing the practice in the state for the first time since the United States Supreme Court overturned death penalty laws in 1972.

August 13
Governor Kean issues Executive Order #13, launching the Governor’s Management Improvement Program to review and propose improvements in state departmental management.

August 16
After sitting on a wooden bench aboard a military plane during a five-hour flight back from a National Governors Conference in Oklahoma, Governor Kean is hospitalized with severe back pain. He will spend a month in the hospital recovering.

November 24
In an emergency budget message, Governor Kean repeats a call for budget cuts and a gasoline-tax increase to meet a looming $150 million budget shortfall.

December 16
In its first override of a veto by Governor Kean, the legislature authorizes a “Moment of Silence” at the start of the school day. Kean had vetoed the bill saying it was “bringing prayer back into the schools.”

December 21
Democrats in the Assembly and Senate pass a bill increasing the state’s income tax rate. Kean vetoes it, but does not immediately put his threatened budget cuts into effect.

December 31
After an all-night negotiating session, Kean and legislative Democrats agree on a tax bill that will raise the top income tax rate in the state (from 2.5 to 3.5) and raise the sales tax by one percentage point (from six to seven). Kean signs the bill while holding his nose to indicate his displeasure, but views it as preferable to the alternative of draconian spending cuts. The bill does not raise the gas tax, as initially proposed by Kean.


January 11
Governor Kean proposes a $6.4 billion budget for the 1984 fiscal year.

January 20
In a unanimous 270 page opinion, the State Supreme Court rules that the state has failed to provide adequate housing for low and middle-income families. The case, a re-visitation of the Mount Laurel decision of 1975, orders towns to encourage construction of lower cost housing through subsidies and tax incentives. It is the first decision of its kind in the nation.

April 14
Governor Kean unveils a new tourism slogan, “New Jersey and You — Perfect Together” at press conferences in the Meadowlands and at the State House.

June 2
When New Jersey environmental tests report high dioxin levels at a former factory in Newark’s Ironbound section, Governor Kean visits the site to reassure residents. National concerns over environmental health were raised after the federal Environmental Protection Agency evacuates the entire town of Times Beach, Missouri, following discovery of high levels of dioxin.

August 29
Governor Kean signs the “Worker and Community Right to Know Act,” requiring employers to disclose the identity and levels of chemical substances used or stored at workplaces. Governor Kean acts after declining to take a position during legislative consideration and extensive lobbying by businesses and trade organizations opposing the legislation.

November 6
In the mid-term legislative elections, the Democrats retain their majorities in both chambers of the legislature, gaining one seat in both the Senate and Assembly.

December 7
In a speech delivered at the National Forum on Education in Indianapolis, Governor Kean calls for renewed national commitment to education and teacher quality, with a focus on salaries, professional licensing, and maintenance of morale and development.


Governor Kean proposes a $7.6 billion budget with no new taxes.

June 30
Governor Kean signs a $7.7 billion budget for FY 1985 after cutting $150 million from the Appropriations Act passed by the legislature during a session that ended at 5 a.m. The budget projects a $313 million surplus and calls for no new taxes or mass-transit fare increases.

July 10
Governor Kean signs legislation establishing the Transportation Trust Fund Authority to provide a stable and predictable funding source for transportation improvements, including capital construction of highways, public transportation, and state aid to counties and municipalities.


Kenneth Merin returns to the Governor’s office as Director of Policy and Planning; Hazel Gluck named Insurance Commissioner.

Governor Kean proposes a $8.8 billion budget.

Governor Kean declares 1985 is “The Year of the Environment.”

April 2
Governor Kean announces that he will seek re-election to a second term.

Peter Shapiro wins the Democratic nomination to oppose Governor Kean in the gubernatorial contest.

Governor Kean signs the Fair Housing Act.

Governor Kean announces that he will sign the South Africa divestiture bill.

Governor Kean signs legislation that guarantees the state’s public school teachers a minimum salary of $18,500 and sets up a statewide teacher-recognition program. The new law gives New Jersey teachers one of the highest minimum salaries in the nation. “Alternate route” to teaching certification also goes into effect.

The legislature passes the Homestead Tax Relief Act, better known as the “Ford Bill.” It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Marlene Lynch Ford.

October 1
A Star Ledger/Eagleton Poll conducted in September finds that 79% of respondents rate Governor Kean’s job performance as excellent or good.

October 25
Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visits New Jersey to endorse Governor Kean for re-election.

November 5
Governor Kean wins re-election with the largest margin of victory in the history of New Jersey gubernatorial races, defeating Democrat Peter Shapiro (then Essex County executive) by a 71%-24% margin, winning all but three of New Jersey’s 567 municipalities. While the Democrats retain the Senate, the Republican party gains a majority in the Assembly for the first time in 12 years.

Governor Kean nominates W. Cary Edwards to be Attorney General.


Governor Kean takes the oath of office at second inauguration.

A Star Ledger/Eagleton Poll shows Governor Kean’s approval at an all-time high for New Jersey governors of 80%.

Governor Kean proposes a $9.3 billion budget for 1987.

Governor Kean sends a letter to Assemblyman Richard Zimmer, expressing support for Zimmer’s proposal to amend the State Constitution to allow an initiative and referendum process for citizen petitions.

Governor Kean visits New Hampshire to address 400 Republicans at a Lincoln Day dinner, where he promotes expanded efforts to broaden the party’s support with minorities, labor and other constituencies.

Governor Kean travels to Michigan to speak to a Republican gathering and also meets with former Michigan Governor George Romney. Upon returning to New Jersey, he announces that he is forming a political action committee to finance his out-of-state political travel and assist candidates in other states.

July 1
A Star Ledger/Eagleton Poll conducted in July finds a job performance rating for Governor Kean of 74% either excellent or good.

July 31
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court Robert N. Wilentz is narrowly confirmed for reappointment by a 21-19 State Senate vote after criticism from Senate opponents over the Court’s alleged activism and questions surrounding the legitimacy of Wilentz’s residency in New Jersey. After a prolonged Senate deadlock, Governor Kean intervenes to obtain critical votes for confirmation by securing a commitment from Wilentz to reduce stays at his New York City apartment and spend additional time in New Jersey if his wife’s health improves.

The New Jersey Department of Energy is dismantled, its functions transferred to the Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

The State Senate rejects two bills to create an office of Lieutenant Governor.

Voters return all 14 sitting Congressional incumbents to office.

December 9
Governor Kean is installed as chairman of the Republican National Governors Conference at its meeting in Parsippany-Troy Hills. He also hosts policy forums with noted experts including former President Richard Nixon, who discusses foreign policy in a closed-door session with the governors.


January 13
In his annual message to the legislature, Governor Kean gives high priority to welfare reform, seeking support for a program titled Realizing Economic Achievement (REACH) to reduce welfare rolls through expanded training and job placement programs. In his “Opportunity Agenda” annual message, he also outlines a coastal commission plan to protect the New Jersey coastline and proposes the first New Jersey budget to exceed $10 billion.

March 9
The New York Times reports on Governor Kean’s growing influence in national Republican circles, as well as his reluctance to encourage speculation over his presidential or vice presidential prospects.

The State Supreme Court rules that the recently enacted death penalty law is constitutional.

Governor Kean signs a $6.2 million urban-aid measure.

Governor Kean signs the state’s first mandatory recycling bill into law.

June 9
Governor Kean signs Executive Order #175, imposing an 18-month moratorium on development in New Jersey’s remaining 300,000 acres of unprotected freshwater wetlands. On July 1, he signs legislation establishing new wetlands protections and rescinds the moratorium imposed under the Executive Order.

July 1
Governor Kean signs Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act.

July 22
Governor Kean holds a press conference to release a study recommending construction of a $200 million arts complex in Newark and other regional cultural facilities.

The State Senate defeats Kean school-intervention proposal. The plan would have permitted the state to seize control of school districts found to be repetitively failing to educate students.

After protracted negotiations over several months with federal officials, New Jersey obtains waivers of regulations to allow implementation of a pilot welfare reform program. The Administration begins implementing the comprehensive REACH welfare reform program in three counties.

November 3
Voters approve a referendum authorizing a $100 million “Quality of Life” bond issue to finance new and renovated cultural facilities, historic preservation, and open space conservation. It is the first quality of life bond passed in the United States. The Democrats retain control of the senate while the Republicans continue to hold the Assembly.

Governor Kean proposes a 14-point plan, costing $200 million, clean up the ocean off the Jersey Shore.

The lame-duck legislature votes a pay increase for its members, while approving an increase in the gas tax for the Transportation Trust Fund.


Governor Kean proposes a $11.8 billion budget for 1989, representing a 12.5% increase over the 1988 fiscal year budget.

After the New Jersey Highway Authority approves a recommended 50-cent hike in tolls, Governor Kean vetoes the increase.

July 22
Vice President George H. W. Bush tours New Jersey beaches with Governor Kean, expressing support for stronger action to combat ocean dumping of wastes that had fouled the State’s coast.

July 29
Following media reports that he was on the list of potential candidates under consideration by the Bush campaign, Governor Kean states that he is not interested in being considered.

August 15
Governor Kean delivers the keynote speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. His book, The Politics of Inclusion, is published by Free Press, advocating political cooperation among historically divided interest groups and politicians.

As the budget outlook worsens, Governor Kean imposes a freeze on hiring of state employees.


In his annual State of the State message to the legislature, Governor Kean suggests that the no-fault automobile insurance system in place needs to be either reformed or scrapped completely. His final budget proposal is for $12 billion, nearly double the amount of his first.

Tax receipts lag behind projects, leading to a projected $290 million shortfall for the 1989 fiscal year.

Drew University announces that Governor Kean will become its president in 1990, after he completes his term as governor.

State auditors discover that Eddie C. Moore, the innovative, widely-admired director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Human Services, had overspent his budget by $32 million dollars without authorization, provoking investigation by Attorney General and later revisions in fiscal oversight.

Governor Kean participates in the ground-breaking ceremony for construction of Liberty Science Center in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, which would open to the public in 1993.

The state wins a court ruling allowing it to take over the failing Jersey City school system.

The State Supreme Court blocks a planned auto-insurance referendum from appearing on the November ballot.

As the economy slows, the state projects a $600 million deficit for the fiscal year 1991 budget.

November 7
James J. Florio wins the gubernatorial election, defeating Republican Congressman James Courter.


January 16
James J. Florio is inaugurated as the 49th Governor of New Jersey.