Gov. Corzine met with reporters for about 35 minutes this afternoon to look back at a year that included a number of setbacks (his toll plan, pension deferral) and accomplishments (cutting the budget, limiting borrowing, moving his economic recovery plans quickly).
Corzine acknowledged that the overriding story of the year, and what has overshadowed nearly everything state government has done, has been the nation's recession and its fall out.
Among the highlights of a very interesting year-end press conference:
- Corzine said he has identified spending cuts nearly equal to the $400 million reduction his administration announced earlier this year to help close a $1.2 billion budget shortfall. He said he will offer details after New Year's, but several times stressed that he will have to see how hoped-for federal aid fits with the state's needs.
- He said furloughs, wage freezes and lay offs are all on the table. He said he hopes for cooperation from workers under contract (read: labor unions), adding that if they don't come to the table, lay offs are his only option to labor costs.
- He called the nation's economic problems "the most unprecedented" he had seen in his life, but hoped that things could start to turn around withing six or nine months.
- Corzine acknowledged his proposed ethics reforms have "less than whole-hearted support in the Legislature."
- He said he would normally not propose something like the pension deferral he recently pitched - "I think it's bad long-term fiscal policy" - but that it's a better alternative than property tax hikes.
- Corzine strongly indicated that he would not extend the Dec. 31 deadline for affordable housing plans, although he did not give a concrete final answer.
We'll have more details in Tuesday's Inquirer.