HILLSIDE, N.J. - New Jersey's governor-elect said his transition advisers were looking closely at the state's myriad boards, commissions, and authorities with the likelihood of eliminating some and cutting salaries at others.
Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie said early reports show some authorities with overlapping responsibilities and others where high-level staffers earn far more than the governor.
"The governor is making $175,000 a year, and you have the heads of some of these places making almost double that," Christie said yesterday as he prepared to volunteer as a box packer at a food-bank warehouse. "This is not something that most taxpayers in New Jersey know about. It's something they should know about and something we're going to try to do something about."
Christie, who based his statements on last week's initial reports from his transition team, said no final decisions had been made on the best ways to trim the bureaucracy. He will be sworn in Jan. 19.
"There's a lot of money that's being spent out there by these groups, with relatively little oversight," Christie said.
Christie said that he does not yet know how much money the state could save by streamlining the commissions and authorities, but that it would not be enough to put more than a dent in the estimated $9 billion budget deficit he inherits for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
"It's much more an issue of symbolism, to make people know there is someone now in charge who will bring things back under control," he said.
Christie has already balked at Gov. Corzine's attempt to fill nearly 200 vacancies before leaving office next month. He argued that Corzine lost the right to name people to policy-making boards when he lost the Nov. 3 election. Christie also said he wants the chance to put his own people in power.
"If you want to have a change in policy, the most direct way to do that is to put like-minded folks on these boards, authorities, and commissions, who are going to take direction from the governor," said Christie.
Republicans are threatening to block whatever Corzine appointments they have the power to stop, which Christie is not discouraging. The unwritten rule known as "senatorial courtesy" allows senators to block nominees from their home districts.
"I've been saying all along, these appointments are wrong," Christie said. "If people want to do what I want them to do, then they won't take them."
Republican Sen. Phil Haines of Burlington County followed that script by turning down a Corzine nomination to become a state judge. Haines said that despite wanting to be a judge, he was withdrawing his name to protest Corzine's flurry of appointments.
The governor is charged with filling hundreds of state and county boards, some carrying full salaries and benefits and others as volunteer posts.
Some of Corzine's recent appointments and nominations are the result of a backlog from the gubernatorial campaign.