Hoboken resident Jon Corzine was sworn in Tuesday as New Jersey’s 54th governor. During his inauguration speech, he promised ethics reform and pledged to end “one-shot budget fixes” and make the “tough choices” to put the state’s fiscal house in order.
Corzine worked his way up the ladder at the financial services firm Goldman Sachs, becoming CEO and chairman. In 2000, he spent more than $62 million and was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2004, he was named to head the Democratic committee to help Senate candidates, one of the more prestigious posts in the party.
Last November, he beat millionaire Republican Douglas Forrester for governor by 10 points. Combined, the two spent more than $75 million, much of it their own money, making their contest the most expensive ever in New Jersey.
Corzine was born on Jan. 1, 1947 in central Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois, served in the Marines, and obtained an MBA at the University of Chicago. He moved with his family to New Jersey in 1975 to work for Goldman Sachs.
Corzine is currently single and lives in the Tea Building in uptown Hoboken. He has three grown children with his wife, whom he divorced in 2003. He eventually dated labor leader Carla Katz, getting him some negative press during the last campaign because he forgave a $470,000 loan to her. Currently, he is dating psychotherapist Sharon Elghanayan, 60.
A challenge ahead During his speech, Corzine said he is “humbled and honored” to be New Jersey’s governor, but he didn’t shy away from outlining the challenges that will face his administration.
“It is simply inexcusable that we have a state government that again and again ranks low in public trust and esteem,” Corzine said. “In the face of all our state can be, our self-government too often falls short of what it should be.”
He said that the state government has failed its residents through “inaction or neglect,” which has led the courts to “govern the funding of our schools, the management of our child welfare programs, our housing and borrowing policies, and oversight of the management of our state’s law enforcement.”
He also noted that the U.S. Attorney had to recently step into a governance role of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) following a financial scandal – just another example of why reform is needed.
He said that ethics reform is the highest priority of his administration, in order to “end the toxic mix of politics, money and public business.”
“Let’s award public contracts by competition and quality, not contributions,” Corzine said.
The state’s books The new governor said that he is committed to finding responsible ways to plug a projected $5 to $6 billion gap in the next state budget.
“The games are over,” Corzine said. “New Jersey must put its fiscal house in order. The time of one-shot budget fixes is past. It’s time to balance the books.”
He added that it is also time for the state to find funding for needed transportation projects. The state’s Transportation Trust Fund is due to go broke in mid-year.
Additionally, Corzine reiterated his campaign to increase property tax rebates by 40 percent in four years. But that, he said, is only a short-term property tax solution. Corzine said that the state needs to hold a constitutional convention to establish a framework for long-term property tax reform.
“At long last, we must move to real and enduring property tax reform,” Corzine said.
He also must find a way to continue funding the new school construction projects that were ordered by the state Supreme Court in 2000, now that the initial $8.6 billion provided by the legislature is about to be exhausted.
Thank you, Codey During his speech, Corzine heaped a healthy amount of praise on the man he succeeds, Acting Gov. Richard Codey, who was wildly popular during his brief term.
Codey, in a Herculean effort, restored at least some of the public’s faith in government after James E. McGreevey resigned amid a scandal. Corzine said that Codey is “one good and decent man.”
“Richard Codey never sought the governorship, but he seized a moment of crisis to return honor to the Governor’s Office,” Corzine added.
Codey will now return to his role as state senator and president of the state Senate, the second-most important political post in New Jersey government.