TRENTON (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine promised more property tax relief, tuition aid, more affordable health insurance and that he would tackle political corruption when he ran for governor two years ago.
With Corzine having celebrated his second anniversary as governor on Thursday, putting him halfway through his first term, a look back at the Democrat’s 2005 campaign promises shows he’s fulfilled some vows but has much to do to accomplish others.
“We didn’t promise miracles,” Corzine said recently as he looked back on his first two years. “We promised progress and I think that is exactly what we are delivering.”
Here’s a look at Corzine’s 2005 promises and what he has accomplished:
Promise: Corzine promised to increase tuition aid and new scholarships for New Jersey college and high school graduates.
Outcome: Corzine increased tuition aid grants, helping, among other things, 686 more county college students get an average of $517 each to use toward tuition last year.
However, since Corzine took office in 2006, the average tuition at New Jersey state colleges and universities has increased by 14 percent, from $5,745 to $6,573. The governor also hasn’t created new scholarships.
Property Tax Relief
Promise: Increase property tax rebates 10 percent per year, call a special legislative session on property tax reform and support giving citizens the right to convene a constitutional convention to propose tax reform.
Outcome: Corzine failed to increase rebates in 2006, but significantly boosted them last year, increasing them by about $700 to $1,051 per homeowner.
Corzine called the legislature into a special tax reform session in July 2006, an effort that resulted in several new laws designed to control the nation’s highest property taxes. He decided against supporting a constitutional convention.
Promise: Make health insurance accessible for 766,000 of 1.4 million uninsured New Jersey residents, including insurance for all children and pregnant women.
Outcome: The state enrolled 116,667 new residents under 21 years old in a state-run health insurance program from January 2006 to last year. Corzine also created a new program to provide low-cost insurance for an estimated 15,000 more children.
Still, the state still lacks a program to insure all pregnant women, and about 250,000 children still lack insurance. Corzine has lately emphasized that the federal government must play a major role in making health care more affordable.
Promise: 100,000 new homes to be built for low- and moderate-income families.
Outcome: Corzine’s administration is completing regulations on a plan that would bring 166,000 affordable new homes and apartments by 2018.
Promise: Corzine was hoping to tighten limits on campaign contributions from government contractors and prohibit county political parties from sharing money among themselves.
Outcome: Corzine failed to support several failed Republican efforts to pass such reforms through the Legislature. However, last year, he signed a law banning all newly-elected officials from holding multiple elected offices, but the law allowed all current dual office holders to keep their positions.
Promise: Hold a referendum that would ask voters if the state should borrow more money for school construction.
Outcome: No referendum has been held, but Corzine overhauled the troubled agency that oversees school construction. The previous agency was criticized for wasting money and failing to complete expected projects.
Stem Cell Research
Promise: Ask voters to support borrowing for stem cell research.
Outcome: Voters were asked to borrow $450 million in November but rejected the idea. Corzine lobbied hard for its passage, and was disappointed by the outcome, but said it sent a message to politicians to get their financial house in order.
Promise: Corzine said raising taxes would be a last resort, but made no promises.
Outcome: At Corzine’s urging, the state increased sales, cigarette and other taxes by $1.84 billion in 2006, easily the largest total tax increase among states that year. In 2007, however, when all state legislators were up for re-election, no new taxes were imposed.
In 2008, Corzine signed into laws bills allowing Newark arena tickets to be taxed and allowing towns to tax parking during special events.
Promise: Examine school funding laws to try to find a more equitable formula for rural and suburban schools.
Outcome: Corzine recently signed a law to send more money to rural and suburban schools.