TWO-THIRDS SAY: Corzine needs to reduce spending more

TWO-THIRDS SAY: Corzine needs to reduce spending more
Cuts favored over tax hike

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 04/24/06

Two-thirds of New Jersey voters want Gov. Corzine to find more budget cuts rather than raise taxes to deal with a $4.5 billion budget deficit, a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Newspapers Poll shows.

Just 10 percent of registered voters say they are satisfied with Corzine's $30.9 billion budget plan, and 6 in 10 voters believe Corzine's plan is more of the same political dealings instead of a product of tough, thoughtful choices, according to the poll.

"Governor Corzine claims that he has scrubbed the budget and some sort of tax increase is necessary to close the gap completely. That message has not been sold to the state's residents," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

"Voters don't know what's going into the budget plan and they don't know why decisions are made," Murray said. "He (Corzine) has done a real bad sales job in that area."

Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said the administration believes spending cuts will not be enough to make up the budget gap.

"Our cuts are deep and painful; they hurt," Coley said. "But at the end of the day, the over $2.5 billion in cuts are not enough to close a $4.5 billion deficit."

More than half of those polled said the budget plan does a bad job of keeping tax increases to a minimum or of providing property tax relief.

Carl W. Kirchberger, 63, a wholesale broker of recycled plastic resins from Oceanport, is one of the dissatisfied voters. Kirchberger said he noticed voters rejected almost half of the local school budgets last week, and he can't understand why Corzine hasn't done more to cut government waste and redirect dollars to other areas.

"Everyone has education on their (mind), but they're sick and tired and can't pay," said Kirchberger. "Since Corzine is a businessman, and he did a great job running Goldman Sachs, well, let's bring some of that brainpower to New Jersey and do what needs to be done. There's all this political patronage and double-dipping. Can't they go after that?"

Even Democrats are discontented with Corzine's proposed $30.9 billion budget: 11 percent said they were satisfied, and more than half said it represented the same old political dealings.

Sixty percent of the Democrats said they "could live with" Corzine's budget, yet the same percentage said he should be able to find more spending cuts.

Jeryl B. Marcus, 41, a Democrat and homemaker from Manalapan, said, "All those government jobs, the people they don't need, and the high salaries they get. . . . They should cut the government waste before they raise taxes."

Almost six in 10 Republicans, and half of the independent voters, said they were entirely dissatisfied with the budget plan.

Corzine's plan calls for increasing sales, business, cigarette and alcohol taxes by a total of $1.5 billion.

It would raise the sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents for every $1 of purchases on most items.

It also would cut aid to public colleges and universities and deny increased financial aid for municipalities and school districts.

The poll of 803 adults and 652 registered voters shows first impressions of Corzine's proposal.

One in four said they had not heard about Corzine's specific plans, while another 48 percent said they had heard "a little."

Some 13 percent said they had not heard about the state's budget deficit and another 40 percent said they had heard only a little.

Only those voters who were aware of Corzine's plans were asked their opinions about it.

Brigid C. Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, said she believes voters are angry at the way the state has been run over the past several years, but they are not taking that out on Corzine.

"Voters have heard administration after administration say they're going to be tough and cut spending, but that hasn't happened," Harrison said. "There's a healthy skepticism on the part of voters."

Harrison said the state is not nearly to the point of having a taxpayer revolt, such as when then-Gov. James J. Florio ushered in his tax increases in 1990.

"I don't get the sense there is that passionate opposition," Harrison said.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone from April 17 to 20. The poll has a has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points. Gannett New Jersey Newspapers include the Asbury Park Press, the Courier-Post, the Home News Tribune, The Courier News, the Daily Record, the Daily Journal and the Ocean County Observer.

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