Below is an opinion piece by a friend, Vince Zarate, who is currently retired and living in Bordentown, New Jersey. He points out the fundamental dishonesty involved in a politician using a cliché to avoid answering a specific question. In this case, Vince tags New Jersey's Governor, Jon Corzine, for having euphamistically claimed that, with respect to this year's budget, "everything is on the table."
A substantially similar version of this, entitled "VINCE ZARATE: Guv 'tables' budget queries," appeared in The Trentonian on January 2, 2009, and is located here on their website.
Viewpoint: The Table
by VINCE ZARATE
Governor Jon Corzine is giving everyone the run around on the details of the new state budget.
When asked if the new budget he is working on will include new or higher taxes, spending cuts or even wage freezes and lay offs, he responded, "Everything is on the table."
Table? What table?
Where is it?
Why isn’t everything under the table instead of on it? How can WE put something on this table?
Or even better, how can WE get rid of what he put on it?
Or is the table a figure of speech used by politicians to dodge a question?
"Everything is on the table" sounds like an answer but it is not an answer at all.
When Corzine says, “Everything is on the table” it is his way of saying he doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
It is his ambrosia.
News reporters are not the only victims of the vague responses from the Governor about the budget.
The Republicans (that’s the other political group in the statehouse) have threatened to sue Corzine for not releasing details on how the administration plans to close a projected revenue shortfall of $1.2 billion.
Senate minority leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Essex) said the 16 Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly asked for documents detailing, "exactly what steps the administration is taking to address the shortfall."
Kean wants to know where the table is, so he can remove "everything"’ off it.
He said Corzine is violating the state’s open public records law by not disclosing what money is being put in reserve to offset the decline in revenues.
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Passaic) said the state is in bad fiscal shape.
He gave his view of what Corzine has put "on the table".
O’Toole said he table is covered with "seven years of tax increases; the unemployment fund is broke; the transportation fund is virtually insolvent; the open space fund is out of money, and sales tax collections have plummeted."
Corzine sipped his ambrosia during the Republican assault.
He said budget decisions will "really be tough" this year because of the plunging economy.
He said lay offs, wage freezes and tax increases are "real options". So too are reductions in Medicaid, and property tax rebates, he said.
"Are you planning to cut the rebates?" he was asked.
Guess what the Governor answered.
(Vince Zarate covered the New Jersey Statehouse for the Star Ledger. Retired, he lives in Bordentown).
Today, the AP reports that the Governor is planning to deliver the details of "the cuts."
Update: And here is that list (pdf) of "cuts" in the current (FY 09) budget as released from the State's Treasurer, David Rousseau, earlier today. He apparently held a press availability on these proposed "solutions" to the current budget at 3 p.m. this afternoon, including $812 million in spending reductions, that are being advanced,
"as part of a larger set of solutions to closing a $2.1 billion shortfall in the FY 09 budget."
So, this is NOT everything that is "on the table," even for this fiscal year . . . at best it represents the Governor's sudden elimination of the soup and salad course, after the State's political leadership -- the Governor and the Democrat majority in both houses of the Legislature -- engaged in a process of denial, having prematurely enabled the wolfing down of the appetizer by their political beneficiaries.
Or, perhaps being in power, they were as Vince noted, prematurely supping on the ambrosia.
No desert between now and July, folks! Not for anybody. Somebody's already been in the cookie jar.
And, bear in mind that we still do not know what will be included in the main course for the remainder of this fiscal year.
As for next year's budget (FY 2010), it is already looking like mighty thin gruel . . . and, in a guberantorial election year!
Finally, the Treasurer's release about today's press availability also notes, at the end:
"Treasurer Rousseau will be available to answer reporters' questions about the proposed solutions to the FY 09 Budget shortfall at 3 pm in the Treasurer's conference Room. The availability is open only to the credentialed press." (my emphasis added)
Credentialed press . . . so that presumably excluded all New Jersey Republican legislative staff, a few of whom have been instrumental in putting together the Open Public Records Act demands that have put at least some pressure on the Democrats to address what the Governor tells us is "on the table."
And, presumably the exclusion was also intended to include bloggers. Hell, I know I didn't directly get the release from Rousseau!
All of this from a guy who was supposed to have been the fiscal wizard who would extract us from the financial shortcomings of his predecessor, Jim McGreevey!
I guess it's easier to be a "fiscal wizard" when you're trotting around Wall Street playing with other peoples' money!