Monday, May 02, 2005

New Jersey's Next Governor?

I met Bret Schundler yesterday evening at a campaign appearance in Merchantville, about 3 miles from my house, which meant I had no reason at all to not show up! The event was organized by the Merchantville and Haddonfield Republican Clubs, and while many of the 65-70 people attending got emails, I heard about it from an automated phone message from the candidate himself.

Like other Republicans, I've been subject to mailings from one or more of the 7 Republican candidates weekly for the past three months. So I was curious to meet Bret in person, and hear firsthand how his plan to lower property taxes differs from the other candidates' plans.

Bret spoke and answered questions for about 30 minutes. I was impressed by his plan for reform, which combines property tax relief with constitutional amendments to constrain spending at the local, county, and state levels. He's working to get the amendments on the November ballot--regardless of whether he gets the nomination. As he states on his site:

Most campaigns offer vague proposals and empty, breakable promises.


We're focusing this campaign on passing specific property tax, spending, and anti-corruption reforms now – before Election Day!

After all, the corrupt politicians who are blocking reform in the New Jersey State Legislature each have to run for re-election next year.

That gives us, the people of New Jersey, an opportunity to put real pressure on these legislators by informing them, in no uncertain terms, that if they do not pass our “Reform NOW Agenda” before Election Day we will vote against them!"

He compared his plan with that of Doug Forrester, emphasizing that with his program, the spending constraints come first, and the lower taxes follow naturally, while claiming that Doug's program didn't deal with spending limits (not entirely true, according to the info on this page, although it's vague on any implementation details). Bret's recommendations are quite specific, based on research at the University of Pennsylvania to find the "magic" multiplier that allows a "rate of spending growth [that] is fast enough to enable government not only to cover the rising costs of existing programs, but also to create some brand new programs, or otherwise improve services, each year," even while property taxes fall (full text here).

As I mentioned, it was a fairly small gathering, so Bret spent time before and after his speech meeting everyone and engaging in conversation. I happened to be talking with a newly-elected Cherry Hill school board member and her husband when Bret came over. The two men started talking about Bob somebody-or-other who was going to be the subject of a documentary. Bret's social skills are such that he stopped, looked at me, and asked, "Do you know who we're talking about?" (He already knew I was fairly new to the state, from our conversation before the speech.) I admitted that I was clueless, so he took the time to fill me in on the remarkable story of basketball Coach Bob Hurley of St. Anthony's in Jersey City. A gracious gesture by a gracious man to make sure I was included in the group.

I suggest you check out his campaign site and blog for yourself. I've become a believer!