Corzine Takes on LocalsSeptember 18, 2008
Consolidate This!September 20, 2008
As we witness the current wrestling match between home rule advocates and consolidation converts, it’s useful to move a few feet back from the ring and consider the big picture. Back in March Steve Kornacki wrote an insightful piece for the New York Observer in which he reviewed Corzine’s initial intentions regarding creating efficiencies in New Jersey (education included). Kornacki writes,
Corzine came to office as only the latest New Jersey governor to promise a solution to the state’s onerous property tax burden, the top complaint of most residents for decades. And he spoke of the professionalism and integrity that would mark his stewardship, assuring voters that his no-nonsense corporate background would yield a government whose ethical conduct would – at long last – make them proud. He dangled other enticing prospects before the public too, like a universal health coverage program.
“Hold me accountable,” he declared in his inaugural address.
The problem is that most of his sweeping proposals, harmless as planks in a campaign platform, would have required the same establishment forces that had backed Corzine to surrender much of their power and influence if they were ever enacted. Most realistic solutions to the state’s property tax mess, for instance, would require a radical change of the state’s home-rule tradition, in which individual towns – some of them microscopic – administer an array of costly services on their own. To alter this tradition would be to dis-empower an entire layer of government and bureaucracy.
Do we have the political will to overturn centuries of local control? We’re not feeling optimistic.