In Moran's NJ Voices piece on NJ.com today, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver invokes the race card against the Christie administration:
"The governor’s inner circle is full of white men, she (Oliver) says, most of them political neophytes who have no clue how deeply it cuts when they raise bus fares or take away tax credits from working poor families.
“That’s why it’s so easy for them to sit around a table, slash this, put a line through that,” says Oliver, the first African-American woman to hold her post. “How many of the guys sitting around that table have ever even sat on a bus?”
Oliver's comments are more offensive, and more dangerous, than those of the Bergen County teachers union leader who distributed a joke that included a prayer for Christie's death. Everyone new that was a joke, but it was such a political gaffe that it crippled the NJEA's campaign against Christie's cuts in education funding.
Oliver's comments are not a joke.
That New Jersey's highest ranking African American elected official would seek to divide our state along racial lines for political purposes is the height of irresponsibility and recklessness.
Oliver also complained that Governor Christie is acting as an unyielding prosecutor dealing with the legislative leadership as if they are defendants. Many would argue that NJ's fiscal practices over the several years were criminal. Borrowing without voter approval, raiding trust funds to plug budget holes, etc, etc.
We need a principled leader to fix this mess. Oliver playing the race and victim cards is not serious statesmanship. It is petty, yet dangerous, politics.
Oliver and State Senate President Steve Sweeney are looking to employ race and class warfare for political advantage, while Christie is looking to put NJ back on sound financial footing regardless of the political consequences. This battle is all about the so called "millionaires tax", the "temporary" income tax surcharge on those who earn over $400K that Corzine imposed last year and the Democrats let expire before Christie took office. The Democrats let the tax expire so that they could force Christie to break his campaign promise not to raise taxes by reinstating the surcharge.
Oliver and Sweeney will settle for half the surcharge being reinstated. If they don't get Christie to budge, they are considering not submitting a budget to the governor by July 1, thereby shutting down the state government or holding Christie's reform agenda of a 2.5% property tax cap, pension reform and civil service reform hostage.
Sweeney says he has polling data that shows the public is overwhelmingly with the Democrats on the income tax surcharge. I hope he and Oliver believe those polls and force a show down. Shutting the government down for a month or two would be just the medicine we need. We will find out what we can really do without and make real cuts accordingly.