As governor, Corzine hiked sales taxes $1.1 billion to pay for popular property-tax rebates; later, the rebate program disappeared for most taxpayers but the sales tax stayed. He also instituted a 2.5 percent fee on all commercial development to subsidize his affordable-housing plans at a time when the state’s private economy was already collapsing. And, as the state’s budget foundered in 2008, he slapped a tax surcharge on higher incomes.
But in the end, Corzine also needed a little financial manipulation in order to keep paying the bills in Jersey. Beholden to public-sector unions who helped elect him, he did nothing to solve the state’s huge pension problem. Instead, he simply pushed billions of dollars in yearly pension costs the state should have been paying into the future. In doing so, Corzine taxed future Jersey residents, who had no say in the matter, by ballooning the state’s long-term liabilities.
Whether in government or finance, he seemed to always believe there’d be a bailout. He destroyed MF Global by betting that the European Union wouldn’t let some of its troubled governments default because they were, of course, too big to fail. In Jersey, he simply ignored one of the worst pension crises in the country because the idea that we’d let hundreds of thousands of government workers lose their pensions is also unthinkable.
In the worlds where Corzine operates, the next bailout is always just around the corner if you are big enough and daring enough.