From the Daily Record:
It’s a bad sign when mild-mannered nonpartisan legislative analysts start measuring the depth of the state’s budget problems by how many decades back you have to look to find similar distress.
The answer, by the way, is three or four.
Then again, Gov. Jon S. Corzine says the economy is in “without doubt, the most serious recession” since the 1930s. That has created a big deficit in the current state budget and a massive one in the plan that must be adopted by the end of June.
Not to mention a throbbing political headache for Corzine and his Democratic colleagues in the Assembly in an election year that could test whether the voters’ recent interest in change goes in both political directions or applies to cuts in popular programs such as rebates.
“We have an economic emergency. … There is a real problem out among the people of this state and across the country with regard to economic conditions. And they’re not getting better,” Corzine said.
“Everyone has to adjust their thinking to the circumstances of the moment,” he said.
The unemployment fund is nearly broke. The transportation fund lacks long-term funding, as does the open-space fund. New Jersey’s income tax relies heavily on the year-end bonuses Wall Street has slashed. Car sales are down more than 40 percent, a direct hit on a big sales-tax driver. Businesses are losing money. New Jersey is down 34,400 jobs in 2008.
“It’s about as bad as we’ve seen in several decades,” said Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, the budget committee chairwoman. “Unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy — government is not immune to the fallout. Tax revenues support our budget.”
Corzine might look to save money by freezing employee wages or forcing workers to take unpaid furloughs — if unions agree to such moves. Layoffs are also possible, although the governor said he wants to avoid that.
“I’d prefer to save jobs, but that means I need cooperation, because under the contract the only one of those you can execute independently are layoffs,” Corzine said. “I’d rather see people on payrolls with health insurance rather than accentuating a problem, but that may not be possible.”