Corzine said he got it, but he didn't

Corzine said he got it, but he didn't
11/11/07 Asbury Park Press

TRENTON — Gov. Jon Corzine admitted voters sent Trenton a strong message about no more massive borrowing, then in the same breath said he will continue with building stem cell research facilities because borrowing for them was approved previously. Huh?

He really doesn't get it. The governor also said the $450 million stem cell measure failed in part because of low turnout. Guess he thinks the 70 percent of registered voters that didn't bother going to the polls were for it. That's a stretch.

Maybe it was not turnout but partisan views. In solid Republican Ocean County, voters trounced stem cell borrowing — over 72,000 against versus less than 40,000 for. In Democratic stronghold Camden County, the measure passed with just 53 percent support, 38,600 to 33,900. It won in six counties, lost in 15.

The Statehouse Grand Poobahs were so sure the ballot issue would pass, they scheduled for two days after the election a legislative committee meeting to formally approve borrowing $25 million. That's part of $270 million in borrowing previously approved by the Legislature, not the voters, despite what the state Constitution says about all borrowing having to be approved by the voters.

No reason was given for the suddenly canceled meeting, but Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden, said, "We need to be respectful of the voters and not come off as if we know more than they do." Now, that would be a monumental change.

Not that stem cell research is bad. It's been going on for decades in the United States and Europe and some day may yield great benefits. Problem is, when New Jersey sticks its hand into an otherwise good cause, it becomes one more political boondoggle, a sop to party bosses, unions and the other assorted hangers-on that make up the political landscape.

If the only goal were to finance stem cell research, they could have made grants to scientists doing the work at Rutgers. But what they wanted was to build new facilities in Newark, New Brunswick and Camden to reward the usual suspects with fat contracts. They even included cash for smaller facilities in Allendale and Belleville. That's the part Corzine wants to continue with.

Particularly misleading was the campaign's insinuation that if New Jersey doesn't do something, this research won't happen and people with serious disabilities and illnesses have no hope. It just isn't true. The research has been going on since the '60s and will continue.

The governor also maintains the benefits go beyond curing illness:

"A Rutgers study says that it will produce about $2.2 billion direct investment and if we were able to get private sector investment to grow as the state is growing its investment, that could be substantially larger..."

Translation — a Rutgers study said an investment in Rutgers is a good thing. Who saw that coming? Private investment would be good, in that the private sector would keep a close eye on what's going on, unlike the state that let corruption at the University of Medicine and Dentistry get so bad the feds had to take it over.

Semantics: After voters lowered the boom on big-ticket spending, the language of the lawmakers quickly changed. They spoke not of "monetization," as in selling or leasing the state's assets for quick bucks then raising the tolls for 100 years to pay for it, but of "fiscal restructuring." The difference? None that we can tell.

Corzine's "monetization" or "fiscal restructuring," or whatever they call it next week, hasn't changed, it's still a super-secret scheme. Jim Gearhart, morning man on New Jersey 101.5 FM, suggests calling it Corzine's Roadway Allocation Plan. That's CRAP for short.

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