On Election Day 2005, the governor was stripped of some of his powers as the citizens of New Jersey voted in favor of adding an amendment to the state constitution that creates the position of Lieutenant Governor which will become effective after the 2009 election. The power that the governor possesses comes from the state constitution of which that power comes directly from the people. The current constitution was ratified in 1947.
New Jersey’s Governor Jon Corzine was born on January 1, 1947 in central Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign and went into the army where he stayed from 1969-1975. Governor’s keen business and fiscal talents comes from his decades working in various investment firms. “In 1975, Governor Corzine was recruited by Goldman Sachs, the New York investment firm. He left Goldman Sachs in May 1999 after successfully converting the investment firm from a private partnership to a public company.
Also in 1997, Governor Corzine was the chairman of a presidential commission to study capital budgeting as a means of increasing federal investment in schools, technology, and infrastructure.” (www.state.nj.us) This background is important in knowing what type of governor he is and that he will not hesitate to move away from his party’s overall consensus when it comes to the task of balancing the budget. (as seen in the 2006 government shutdown).
In 2005, after more than four years in the U.S. Senate for the state of New Jersey, Jon Corzine announced his candidacy for the governor of New Jersey. “Corzine won his campaign for the post of Governor of New Jersey with 54% of the vote. Republican nominee Doug Forrester, a businessman and a former Mayor of West Windsor Township, in Mercer County, won 43%. Corzine received 1,224,493 votes to Forrester's 985,235. A total of 80,277 votes, or 3%, were scattered among other candidates.” (wikipedia)
The governor is directly elected by the people of his state. The governor performs the executive functions of the state, and is not directly subordinate to the federal authorities. The governor assumes additional roles, such as being the Commander-in-Chief of the New Jersey National Guard forces as well as appointing members of his cabinet, judges and having the responsibility of presenting a budget that needs to be accepted by July 1 of the previous year.
The election of Governor of New Jersey is much more important and has wider ramifications that say the election of governor for the state of Illinois for example. The main reason for this is that a vote for a gubernatorial candidate is also a vote for all which he is likely to appoint in his cabinet whereas such candidates for State Treasurer, Comptroller and State’s Attorney in the State of Illinois for example, are elected through a direct vote by its citizens. The Attorney General, State Treasurer, Comptroller and the Head of Education, to list a few, were all appointed by either Governor Corzine or his predecessors.
As I am not a lifelong citizen of New Jersey but instead spent some of my adolescence in Illinois where its citizens had the right to vote for the candidates of these positions, it seems foreign to me that a governor would have so much power to appoint so many important positions. New Jersey’s state constitution seems to be giving a free pass to the spoils system that was fought so hard against in the 19th century in this country. The ugly side of political graft has plagued the entire democratic process in this country and has taken the people’s voice out of the democratic process.
The governor should not have the right to appoint New Jersey’s State Treasurer, Attorney General or any other highly important positions in the state’s government unless that seat is vacated in the middle of a term due to an emergency. Doing otherwise takes the voice away from the people who have the right to vote for these positions. Also, failing to do so, helps breed partisanship within the governor’s cabinet since a Democrat is more likely to appoint all Democrats as well as a Republican’s inclination to do the same. If a governor’s cabinet is to be all Democrat, all Republican, or a mixture of both, it should be up to the more than eight million residents of New Jersey and not a single man!
This same ideology needs to be enacted regarding the governor’s ability to appoint judges. In Illinois, judges are appointed by the people. Isn’t that what ought to happen in a democracy, at least on the state and local level? I would even be in favor of the appointment of judges being the responsibility of the state legislature instead of the governor alone as a lesser evil.
Currently, it seems to be a one party system in New Jersey and with New Jersey being one of the most diverse states in the country: Diverse by way of racial, religious and political affiliation, such a setup seems to be disadvantageous towards the goal of complete representation of New Jersey’s citizens. This high level of diversity should be representative from the governor on down but sadly it is not. This is not to blame the governor for he/she is inclined to appoint members of their own party. What is alarming is the number of appointments the governor of New Jersey is allowed to make under the current state constitution.
The role of the governor is not only to appoint a cabinet but to submit a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The deadline to do this in July 1st. Incidentally, that was the same date as the start of New Jersey’s only government shutdown in the year 2006. The New Jersey Constitution states under Article VIII that a state’s expenses for the year be provided for “in a single budget act.” The constitution also specifics a provision stating preventive measures against going into debt.
A start to New Jersey’s troubles was ignoring this sound advice. Governor Corzine, in an attempt to pass his budget, came into conflict with fellow Democrats within the General Assembly. The main point of contention was the Assembly’s refusal to increase the state tax from 6% to 7% in order to fill the budget gap. Corzine stated that there was no other way in coming up with the money as the state’s constitution forbade other forms of revenue. Months before the shutdown, Corzine states that he would not accept a budget that did not include a tax increase and he stood firm in this conviction and the General Assembly did the same which eventually resulted in the shutdown.
When the budget failed to pass, the shutdown occurred. This resulted in 45,000 workers being told that they were non-essential and would have to stay home for an indefinite period of time. The shutdown lasted only a week but thousands of workers were affected by this shutdown. Even though it seems more to be the cause of the legislature’s inability to act regarding the needed passing of the budget before the deadline, should a governor have the right to shut down the state government? This is a hard question to answer and one that requires a bipartisan dissection of the problem in the long term and not just with the current players in my state’s administration.
It seems that the power that the governor has in appointing judges, his cabinet and in shutting down the government is not his own but is a right given him by the state constitution. In the state legislature’s present state: fiscal irresponsibility, political corruption and a general disconnect by the state legislature from its citizens, it seems that the governor really had no choice but to use the authority at his disposal to help get the state back on track and to be held accountable for presenting a responsible budget to the people. But the more important issue is that a stoppage should never have occurred and therefore, Governor Corzine would not have been in the position to contemplate the need for a government shutdown.
One really does roll the dice when voting for the governor of New Jersey. Will he keep his political promises? Will he appoint members of his cabinet and judges that are concerned only with their responsibilities? Will there be any attempt at a bipartisan cabinet?
And if the governor is not of the same political party and/or the same ideology as myself, then I can rest assured that my voice and my vote will have only a fraction of its effectiveness if I were in Illinois or any other state where the “elected officials” are just that-elected by the people to represent them. Also, the governor’s additional authority to appoint judges makes it even more likely that an atmosphere of partisanship will permeate New Jersey politics.
There has been a great deal of talk about “activist judges.” I do feel that with judges being human beings and unable to be 100% impartial 100% of the time, the political party of a judge is something to consider and the likelihood that a Democrat governor will likely nominate likeminded judges and Republicans will do the same, results in a is a lack of stability in not only the state legislature but also in the way that laws and cases are decided.
The possibility of a complete overhaul concerning the ideology of my state as a result of the governor’s power and a different political party possibly taking control every four years is something, I feel does not resemble a true democracy but instead serves as an impediment to the expectation that a person’s voice will be heard. Our governor, regardless of whether or not we are in agreement, has more political power than he ought to.
Our founding fathers were weary of a political system that garnishes absolute power to its representatives and believed that absolute power corrupted. In the end, the power rests with the people and not until New Jersey has the displeasure of electing a governor who takes full advantage of the rights given to him by the present state constitution and uses it for sinister motives as did Huey Long in 1930’s Louisiana, will any of the needed change happen.
www.ngs.org (National Governor’s Association)
www.naag.org (National Association of Attorneys General)