Christie is just like Perry: He has failed New Jersey's Families
By John Currie
Governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Chris Christie is currently visiting the Lone Star State for several Republican National Committee fundraisers. I find the timing of this trip particularly curious, because exactly like Governor Rick Perry in Texas, Christie's extreme-right policies have hurt the economy, women, and families in this state.
Just like Perry, Christie's priorities favor the wealthy over those working hard to support their families. When Christie was faced with a budget shortfall, he gutted billions of dollars in targeted relief to the elderly, middle class, and the poor. But he didn't touch the income-tax deduction, which favors the wealthy. Gov. Perry's imbalanced tax laws had the poorest fifth of Texans paying about 12 percent of their income in 2009, compared to the 3 percent on income that the wealthiest one percent of Texans paid.
Just like Perry, Christie's record has not been good for the economy. In fact, compared to the country as a whole, New Jersey has faltered since Christie took office. New Jersey's economic performance ranks sixth worst in the nation, and we have the eighth-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 8.6 percent - barely changed from when he took office over three years ago. Personal incomes in New Jersey now tie with Rhode Island for third-smallest gain in the country. Tax revenue is less than it is in 44 other states. We rank higher than Florida in the percentage of homes in foreclosure handled through the courts. And we've got one of the lowest credit ratings in the country, which only keeps dropping thanks to our budget battles.
The Republican Party likes to glaze over these details, but they just can't ignore those facts.
Another thing they can't ignore is Rick Perry's failures as governor. After over a decade in office, the unemployment rate in Texas has risen by over two points according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When he took office in January 2001, the unemployment rate there was 4.2 percent. As of this summer, it is 6.5 percent.
Texas also has the second highest number of workers earning the minimum wage or less. This is 7.5 percent of Texas workers, compared to 4.7 percent nationwide. Texas also has the highest number of low-wage workers in the country. Christie seems to be right at home there.
Another area where the two are nearly identical in their extremism is their policies on women's health care. Gov. Christie cut $7.5 million from health clinics that provide physical exams, mammograms, life-saving pap smears, and other vital and basic medical screenings. Because of this, family planning clinics saw at least 33,000 fewer patients in 2010 than in 2009, representing a 24 percent drop. The number of clinical breast exams given fell more than 30 percent. Six clinics closed, and others statewide had to cut back on hours or increase waiting periods. This means fewer regular checkups for poor and uninsured women, only creating higher health care costs in the future.
We all watched this summer - after State Sen. Wendy Davis' marathon filibuster attempting to block it - as Gov. Perry signed into law the most restrictive abortion bill in the country. The new legislation forces clinics and doctors to meet new, unnecessary standards that disproportionately affect those living in poor and rural parts of Texas. All but five of the state's 42 clinics are expected to close.
Even before that, Perry cut funding to women's health clinics, causing 60 to shut their doors. In 2011, he gutted state funding for these centers by 60 percent.
As if all of that weren't enough, Christie and Perry have taken their brand of extreme to our children's schools. New Jersey saw a $1 billion budget cut as soon as Christie took office. Similarly, Perry's budget cut kindergarten through 12th grade funding by $4 billion - with a 'b'. Education funding overall in Texas has dropped 25 percent since Perry has been in office.
The political stars might be big and bright in Texas, but they shouldn't shine on the backs of hardworking families, Governors. Luckily for us in New Jersey, we have real stars - State Senator Barbara Buono and Newark Mayor Corey Booker - who are real fighters for the middle class and will lead us forward as our next Governor and Senator.
The author is the Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.