Saturday, July 24, 2010
Last week I saw on the front page of the Trenton Times an article which said the governor just signed the 2 percent cap on property taxes into law. A picture which appeared with the article showed Governor Christie sitting at a table, presumably to sign the bill. Standing next to him was Stephen Sweeney, the senate president. I wonder what is going through Sweeney's head especially since he is the Democratic leader in the senate. The signing ceremony at the Nottingham Ballroom in Hamilton Square was also a rally for Thomas Goodwin the Republican senator from Hamilton Twp. that recently took over Bill Barone's seat. It could just as well have been a gay wedding for these two politicians.
It seems that lately Sweeney has decided to become Christie's wife. Since Christie does not control the legislature, he heeds help from sympathetic Democrats to get legislation introduced to advance his agenda. Sweeney seems only too eager to oblige.
Now you may wonder why Sweeney is willing to kiss up to the governor to the extent of going to a Republican campaign rally. Well, he would tell us uninitiated souls that if we think the job of a Democratic senate president is to help elect Democrats, then we are sadly mistaken. See Sweeney's job is first and foremost to make Sweeney look good and screw everybody else including his fellow Democrats and his constituents who happen to work for state, county or local government.
Part of the deal with Mr. Sweeney is that he is the master of collecting multiple paychecks for holding many different offices. Remember all that sanctimonious talk a few years ago about limiting elected officials in the state to one elected job. That is now the law, but when it was passed, the politicians that held multiple jobs were allowed to keep them. And nothing in the law prohibits politicians from being officers in organizations outside of government.
Here are a few of Mr. Sweeney's jobs. As you already know he is the state senator from District 3, which covers parts of Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland counties. He is also the Freeholder Director of Gloucester County, which is a position something like Mercer's County Executive, except he was chosen for the chief executive position by his fellow freeholders. He is also a member of the Delaware River Port Authority board and is president of the ironworkers union.
Like any good politician, he got to where he is at by bringing the bacon home to his backers. About four years ago, when Corzine was governor, the state shut down for about a week in July. Senators Sweeney and Roberts were leading a faction in the legislature that opposed Corizine's plan to increase the sales tax by a penny and use the extra money to fully fund government worker pensions. Every governor since Florio either underfunded the pension system, or like Christie, refused to fund it at all. A deal was reached in the end. Half the proceeds of the extra penny of sales tax were to be used for pensions, the other half cent was to be used for "property tax relief". Somehow, the pension is not being funded now, nor is property tax relief, although that was the deal.
I believe there was also another quid pro quo under the table, for after the sales tax went up, several large projects were funded in southern New Jersey - projects that helped keep union construction workers employed and fattened the pockets of local businesses. Examples included construction of the DREAM horse park in Logan Township, Gloucester County. This is a place where you can board your horse and also has exposition rings and riding trails. A nice perk for us working stiffs up here in Trenton who need a taxpayer-subsidized place to keep our string of polo ponies. Also, Corzine fulfilled George Norcross's Jr.'s dream by chartering a four-year medical school at Cooper Hospital in Camden. It will be a part of Rowan University with a campus to be built on Broadway in Downtown Camden. (I guess the new physicians will be well versed in treating drug overdoses and fixing gunshot wounds after training there). Also in Camden last summer, the Governor closed the second-newest prison in the state and had it demolished before he left office. The idea was to make way for redevelopment of the North Camden waterfront as housing. More jobs for the ironworkers members who will no doubt be constructing the steel framework of these high-rises. Additionally, the governor secured funds for Rowan University and the City of Glassboro to demolish a residential neighborhood next to the Rowan campus to construct a new downtown area. This is being built by SORA Associates. Sweeney, through his connections on the Delaware River Port Authority is pushing to extend the PATCO high speed line from Lindenwold to Glassboro at the cost of millions of dollars (and of course more union construction jobs.). A real fiscal conservative (ha-ha.).
I believe Sweeney believes if he helps sell public employees down the river with his 2-percent hard cap and by shepherding Christie's "tool kit" through the legislature, he will be able to have the governor throw a few construction projects his way. He already has been rewarded when the "Governor from Harrah's" proposed establishing a state-controlled district around the casinos and loosening of regulations to enable the casinos to do their thing with less state oversight and keep more money for themselves. He is probably hoping for funding for the medical school, the highrises on the Camden waterfront and the new rail line.
See, it's not about helping your fellow Democrats or taking care of the thousands of his constituents who work as police, teachers and government office workers. It's about promoting Sweeney and fattening the pockets of union construction workers. And he will probably go as far as sticking his tongue up the governor's butt to get what he wants.
Posted by trentonbutcherboy at 10:49 AM