We're in quite a state here in New Jersey, pun intended. Our government failed to pass a balanced budget by the end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline, which struck at midnight. This means that only essential functions of government may continue to operate.
We all received a flurry of memos yesterday. The first memo instructed us to check with our supervisors about our status, essential vs. non-essential. I dutifully went to my boss with the memo in hand to ask about my standing. He gave me a "you're-being-a-pain-in-the..." well, we'll say neck here, just to keep it polite: he gave me a "you're-being-a-pain-in-the-neck" look, then informed me that I am non-essential. Oh the misery. I am not needed. I am insignificant.
Seriously, though, I really was being a pain in the whatever. After 18 years in the same title, I am well aware of my status. I was being obediently cheeky in following the instructions in the memo.
Later in the day, an official memo was provided to each of us informing us of our status. It once again confimed my relative unimportance as a cog in the wheel of state government. Indeed, we were told that any non-essential staff who showed up for work in the event of a government shutdown would be sent home. All around me people were bemoaning the lack of appreciation for their service.
OK, truth be told, most of us do not want to be essential. While we would prefer not to have significant amounts of time off without pay, nobody is excited over the prospect of handling all of the emergencies that arise during a government shutdown.
So how does this affect me? Well, I will be off on Monday no matter what, since I have an approved vacation day (thanks to my very kind boss, in spite of my cheek). The question is whether or not I will be paid for the day. If there is a shutdown, I will not be paid.
If the shutdown is averted, I will be home alone on Monday. My first plan is to watch all 6 glorious hours of Pride &Prejudice (the Colin Firth version, of course). My backup plan (depending on mood) is to go to the movies to see either A Prairie Home Companion or The Devil Wears Prada. (My friend Pax reviewed A Prairie Home Companion here.) I've never been to the movies alone (except the campus movie in college, but that doesn't count), and I'm not sure whether or not I'll have the courage to do so. Am I being silly?
If there is a shutdown, then I will NOT be home alone, since we are both government employees in this household. In that case, all bets are off, especially bets that involve spending any money. We'll both be losing a day's pay for each day the State of NJ is closed for business. Ouch. We'll survive a little of that, but too much of it will be very, very painful.
So Trenton (the NJ capitol city and the seat of government) is in a mess. It's in a literal mess due to serious flooding this week, which, ironically, closed many state offices in the city. It's in a figurative mess because of political posturing, grandstanding, and a mess left by past governors and legislators of both parties. To wit:
-Christie Whitman (R) plundered state employee pensions and single-handedly wrecked NJ's A+ credit rating before she abandoned her post to run the EPA for W. She appointed:
-Don DeFrancesco (R) as Acting Governor before turning tail. Mr. DeFrancesco, an unelected governor, spent money like water, putting us further into the hole.
-Jim McGreevey (D) came next. Big budget challenges awaited Mr. McGreevey, especially in the wake of the September 11th attacks, since NJ is so close to NYC and Newark International Airport played such a significant role in the attacks. Mr. McGreevey also abandoned his post late in his first (and only) term, ostensibly because he had become involved in an affair with a male staff member, but it is thought that there might have been deeper issues and scandals. Mr. McGreevey left, appointing:
-Richard Codey (D) as the acting governor. Once again New Jerseyans were left with an unelected acting governor, and once again spending went a bit over the top. And now we have:
-Jon Cozine (D), elected governor, who seems to be doing his best to fix things, without much help from all of the other elected reps here in the Garden State.
This is, of course, my highly biased view of things (hey, it's my blog, I get to be biased). Even if you disagree with my position on the issues, you can see that NJ's government has been hacked to pieces over the last several administrations. Is it any wonder we're in such a state here in NJ?