Address of Governor Jon S. Corzine
January 17, 2006
Trenton – Following is the
prepared text of New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine’s
“Reverend Clergy, Governor
Codey, Chief Justice Poritz and Members of the Judiciary,
Colleagues of the 212th Legislature, Speaker Roberts
and Minority Leaders Lance and DeCroce, Governors DiFrancesco,
Florio, Byrne and Governor Acevedo Vila of Puerto Rico.
Members of the New Jersey Congressional
Delegation, our senior Senator Frank Lautenberg and
U.S. Senator-Designate Robert Menendez; Congressmen
Pallone, Andrews, Frelinghuysen, Pascrell and Rothman;
U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie; Colleagues from
the U.S. Senate – Senators Biden, Sarbanes, Dodd
and Torricelli; AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and
friends from labor; my family, friends, and fellow New
Thank you all for joining in this
passage of democracy. I am deeply humbled and honored
to be entrusted with the stewardship of this office.
All New Jerseyans should know my resolve is to govern
New Jersey as one community with one future. Like our
nation, we are “one state” under God.
The oath I have just taken to uphold
the Constitution of New Jersey is not a ceremony of
triumph for one person, or one party, but a solemn covenant
to serve “impartially and justly” for everyone.
I will be true to that covenant, and to the citizens
of New Jersey.
I know there are many in public
life who take their oaths equally seriously –
public servants who truly serve. Many are here today.
Respecting others’ public
service, there is one good and decent man who has worked
tirelessly to restore the public trust and whose continued
commitment will be needed, as together, we forge a new
future for New Jersey.
Richard Codey never sought the
governorship, but he seized a moment of crisis to return
honor to the Governor’s Office. Governor Codey
– on behalf of all New Jerseyans – for all
you have done – and for how you have led, you
have earned our respect. Thank you.
In the spirit of service to which
we dedicate ourselves today, let us pause and pay tribute
to the men and women in uniform who risk their lives
around the globe – many in our New Jersey National
Guard. Let us pray for their safety as we do for all
who sacrifice to protect us at home and abroad.
And, as we rededicate ourselves
to a new beginning and a better New Jersey, we also
owe ourselves an honest accounting of where we stand.
First, no one can doubt New Jerseyans’
talent, our belief in hard work, and our capacity for
creativity and innovation. Our people have boundless
energy. Our people are good.
Across this state, across our nation and around the
world, New Jersey sets a high bar. We are proud that
Supreme Court Justices, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, Cabinet officers, Chief Executives, singers,
rappers, writers, scientists, and entrepreneurs all
hail from New Jersey. Our children graduate from our
schools at higher rates than anywhere else in the nation,
and our income and education levels are among the very
best. In their own lives and in their own hopes for
their children, our people do not settle for less than
Today – I pledge to you that
as your governor, I will never settle for less than
It is simply inexcusable that we
have a state government that again and again ranks low
in public trust and esteem. In the face of all our state
can be, our self-government too often falls short of
what it should be.
Today, courts govern the funding
of our schools, the management of our child welfare
programs, our housing and borrowing policies, and oversight
of the management of our state’s law enforcement.
Our U.S. Attorney has stepped into a governance role
of our state’s medical school. And, our state
is being sued to fulfill its financial obligation for
public employee pensions.
This is not self-government, it
is government by judicial fiat born of inaction or more
regrettably – of neglect. And most troubling,
that neglect is sometimes rooted in private or political
gain, at the expense of the public interest.
I know you share my belief that
it is time for us to change all of that -- time for
change, not because I am a new governor or because I
am so righteous, but because it is the right thing to
do and the public demands it. There was a clear message
heard last fall: we must change how our government does
business, and we must remember, it is the people for
whom we work.
To do that we will need real reform.
And my highest priority will be ethics reform. I know
there are legislators of both parties – men and
women of conscience, who will stand with me, even push
Together, we will earn back the
people’s confidence and our own self-governance.
Old orders and old ways may not pass easily, but the
moment has come, the cause is urgent, and the will to
act is at hand.
So I call on all my fellow public
servants to join in an historic effort to end the toxic
mix of politics, money and public business – at
every level of New Jersey government. Let’s award
public contracts by competition and quality, not contributions.
Let us insist on an elected state
comptroller – an independent watchdog over the
state finances chosen by the people, responsible to
the people and committed to restoring the people’s
Let us make these reforms permanent
in the state’s constitution so that they cannot
be ignored in practice, subverted behind closed doors,
or put aside after the present crisis of confidence
What we need is not a new day of
reform, but a new era. An era where working with or
serving in New Jersey state government is not viewed
as a chance to make a deal, but as an opportunity to
make a difference. A way to enrich, not the well connected,
but the lives of our children, our working families,
our veterans, and retirees.
Public integrity is not just about
reputation or principles, as important as each is. What’s
at stake is social justice and fiscal responsibility.
Every dollar squandered in violation of the public trust
is a book not bought for a classroom, a prescription
drug with a higher co-pay, meals-on-wheels not delivered,
a road or science lab not built. With a multi-billion
dollar structural deficit, mismanagement and misappropriation
cannot and will not be tolerated.
To earn the public trust, we must
act, but we also must trust the people with the truth.
We cannot build a financial future on the crumbling,
papered-over foundation of a recurring fiscal crisis.
Too often, for too long, under both parties, fiscal
gimmicks have been invented, recycled, and reapplied
to mask fiscal realities. As Governor Codey said in
November, his transition report can be summed up simply:
“the state is pretty much broke.”
The games are over. New Jersey
must put its fiscal house in order. The time of one-shot
budget fixes is past. It’s time to balance the
Just as it’s time to restore
the transportation trust fund, get back on a path to
full funding of public employee pensions, and to discipline
and move forward with our school construction program.
The process of reestablishing our
financial integrity will not be painless. Tough choices
are ahead. I would prefer to be a governor with a public
treasury flush with money to spend on good things for
our state or further reduce the people’s tax burden.
But that is not the hand we have been dealt. And it
is our task to do the best we can with today’s
stark realities. The state, like every responsible family,
must learn to live within its means.
We will examine every program,
measure performance, demand more for less, and root
out spending that merely serves political not public
I will keep my pledge on property
tax rebates, but we must also give the people a voice
in the process of lasting reform. That is why I support
a constitutional convention – a convocation of
citizens, working within a framework established by
their elected representatives. At long last, we must
move to real and enduring property tax reform.
I know my friends in the Legislature understand fiscal
and tax questions are explosive – but the time
for procrastination is past.
The decisions should be taken;
the tough choices made. Let us seize this moment and
meet our challenges. We have no other choice.
Hold me accountable.
It is time to look beyond next
year – or the next election – to the next
generation. The people we serve are waiting –
and in the words of Woodrow Wilson, “If you think
too much about being reelected, it’s very difficult
to be worth reelecting.”
Yes, government must reform and
it must be disciplined, but we also must teach our children
well, serve our seniors with respect, protect our health
and environment and build our prosperity.
Public integrity and sound finances
are the foundation for meeting our obligations. Without
that foundation, children in foster homes are at risk,
special needs children fall further behind and our police
and firefighters will be unable to communicate when
tragedy strikes. So – we face urgent challenges
to do what is right for our people, and our economy.
In this context, New Jersey’s
prosperity is challenged by the deteriorating fundamentals
of our economy. To put it simply, we are growing too
few jobs, losing high paying, value-added jobs and replacing
them with lower paying service work. Some of this trend
can be explained by the strength of our history in telecommunications
and pharmaceuticals and the restructuring of those industries.
On the other hand, we have done
too little to fight for the high-end replacements –
jobs in biotechnology, genomics, energy production,
and finance. To meet this challenge – we will
embrace pro-growth and pro-business initiatives.
With a new public-private partnership,
focused on economic development, the Edison Innovation
Fund, we can renew in this century what happened in
the last – when vision, initiative and talent
transformed rustbelt New Jersey into powerhouse New
Jersey: a global leader in inventions, medicines and
the then high-tech industries that gave our citizens
the highest median income in the nation.
As a trailblazer in stem cell research,
we can save and improve the quality of countless lives
– as Carl Riccio and other advocates bravely argue.
At the same time, we can move New Jersey’s economy
to the frontier of twenty-first century biotechnology.
And though this is a time of austerity,
we must find the tools and the resources to fulfill
our most fundamental commitments, starting with our
commitment to our children, our families, and the health
of our citizens. It is intolerable that a quarter million
children in New Jersey go without healthcare, and that
children lose their lives in our child welfare system.
We have always been a progressive
state, with progressive values – and I will fight
to sustain that tradition.
A just society must offer its hand
to the vulnerable. And we must advance the hopes of
our great middle class through higher education, affordable
housing and decent recreation.
Economic growth and social justice
need not be adversaries. With a policy and economic
strategy to “invest, grow and prosper” we
can and we will overcome our current problems, and meet
Finally, I recognize that my most
basic responsibility is to make certain that we do everything
we can to protect our citizens from terrorist threats,
crime and natural disasters. We learned all too well
on 9/11 that we live in an era where danger is no longer
an ocean away. In fact, it may be on the next block
or in a neighboring community.
My Administration will be ever-vigilant
and do all it can structurally and through investments
to provide the tools needed by those on the frontlines
of homeland and hometown security. The tragedy of 9/11
is branded into our souls, and the voices of the Jersey
Girls and the other families of those lost demand nothing
Ethics and financial reform, property
tax relief and reform, economic development, homeland
and hometown security: these goals are neither partisan
nor regional. They reflect the needs and aspirations
of all New Jerseyans.
To achieve success I will need
the help of all of you more than ever, and more than
ever I am confident that the public and their elected
officials will give that help because everyone knows
this state can do better.
To my legislative colleagues, I
understand there will be disagreements – but we
need not be disagreeable. Civility and dialogue will
increase the probability of our success.
For me, my oath and these pledges
are a personal commitment to build that better New Jersey.
The promise in the eyes of every
child should remind us each day that our work can make
a difference. Those of us who temporarily hold elected
office are summoned not just to exercise power, but
to live up to the highest aspirations of our people.
I am a New Jerseyan by choice –
I love our state and her people, and I want our state
to be known for the high ideals of its people.
As Robert Kennedy famously quoted
from George Bernard Shaw, “There are those who
look at things the way they are and ask, ‘why’?….
I dream of things that never were and ask ‘why
I dream of the best New Jersey
can be. I look to this audience and to the citizens
at large and ask, ‘why not’?
Let us resolve that having been
through a period of turmoil, we will not go back to
business as usual. We can and must move with a new determination
into a new era of honesty, responsibility and prosperity
- with a government that earns the people's trust, and
trusts the people with the truth.
It is truly time for a new beginning.
We will not achieve everything
we want with one program, or even in one legislative
session. But in the next four years, we can and must
put New Jersey back on the right track. We will do it
by choosing what is difficult but right, over what is
easy but wrong.
If we live up to that standard,
we can look forward to the time when all of us can say
with pride: I make my home in the great state of New
So I close with a simple pledge:
that in the choices I make as your Governor, I will
be guided by one principle – What is best for
And, in turn, I ask you –
the citizens of New Jersey, hold me accountable.
Thank you and God bless you all.”