Thursday, April 26, 2007

Corzine’s Temporary Exit Allows for Possible Mischief

Governor Corzine’s tragic accident has left him temporarily incapacitated, leaving the President of the State Senate, Senator Dick Codey (D-West Orange), as the Acting Governor. The change in leadership comes at a precarious time for Corzine’s Administration. With high poll numbers and several accomplishments under his belt, Mr. Corzine had plans to make some fiscally responsible changes to the State’s budget this year. While those plans are theoretically still on the table, it will be Senator Codey and his colleagues in the State Senate and Assembly who will decide the fate of the State budget. Since Senator Codey will be Acting Governor while presiding over the Senate, there are significant issues regarding the separation of powers that are especially troubling given that the government’s most important subject matter, the State budget, will be considered during this time period. Even more interesting is the mischief that can now take place should Senator Codey decide to be more than just a caretaker for the next few weeks or months.

For example, as Governor, Senator Codey can allow the now-infamous “Christmas tree” items to be placed into this year’s State budget. As Senate President, he can then preside over the passage of the budget with these items included. In this way, he enables all of the legislators to obtain money for their pet projects and help secure their re-elections while providing cover for Governor Corzine so that Mr. Corzine can say that he had nothing to do with it and that it is an outrage that it took place.

Another more controversial scenario might be that Governor Codey can consider renegotiating with the unions. Since the Legislature had requested steeper reductions in benefits not agreed upon by the Governor, Senator Codey, in his role as Governor, may be able to reopen negotiations with the unions and demand concessions. In this way, Governor Corzine can retain union support while benefits are cut by Governor Codey and the Legislature to ease budget constraints.

While the residents of New Jersey will have a Lieutenant Governor as of 2009, until then, we are left with the continual possibility that the Senate President will be elevated to the status of Acting Governor while still retaining the position of Senate President. While Governor Codey is likely to serve in a supportive role until Governor Corzine is well enough to resume his duties, he has the ability to cause some significant mischief, as would any elected official serving in those dual capacities. Given that there are conflicts of interest inherent in the Acting Governor also serving as the Senate President, particularly during budget negotiations, 2009 cannot come too soon.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of, is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Chairman of the New Providence Democratic Party and as Editor of The Alternative Press Contact Mike at