As New Jersey – like other states – sees billions in tax dollars disappear during the COVID-19 pandemic, we already hear talk of massive budget shortfalls! What do budget shortfalls mean? You guessed it: budget cuts for things ordinary people need.
Obviously, governors and legislators could address this by raising taxes on the rich and corporations, but that’s not their game plan. In 2011, projected budget shortfalls and fallout from the 2008 recession prompted New Jersey’s Republican governor and the Democratic Party-controlled legislature to cut funding for elementary, secondary, and higher education by $900 million. This move forced public workers to pay significantly more for their health care and pension benefits, and illegally froze all public workers’ pay raises!
In 2020, with the economic pain going far beyond what we experienced in 2008, we can be sure that the same people, including both Democratic and Republican leaders, will be demanding cuts again. Where will the money come from this time? Will public workers be furloughed? They’ve already proposed it. Rutgers and other state universities? Probably. Elementary and secondary schooling? Probably. Public employee pension funds? Definitely! This has been a target for years, and now the politicians have a new excuse to take another shot at privatization.
This is their game plan. We know what to expect. How will we respond?