Corzine's approvals resume slide

January 16, 2008 5:38:40 AM PST
New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine's approval rating has fallen since he proposed increasing highway tolls to cut state debt and pay for transportation projects, a poll released Wednesday found.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll found 40 percent of New Jerseyans approve of how Corzine is handling his job, with 44 percent disapproving.

That's down from October when 46 percent approved and 32 percent disapproved.

The latest poll comes as Corzine nears the halfway point of his four-year term. He became the governor on Jan. 17, 2006.

When asked to grade the Corzine administration, residents gave him a "C-minus" average.

"Jon Corzine has deposited little in the bank of public good will so far," said Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institute director. "Considering what he now wants to accomplish with his debt reduction plan, it is not an auspicious start to the second half of his term."

Corzine's wants to pay off at least half of $32 billion in state debt and fund transportation projects for the next 75 years by creating an independent nonprofit corporation that would manage toll roads and issue bonds, which would be paid back with revenue from sharply increased tolls.

Asked to grade the Democratic governor in specific areas, residents gave him a "D" for making the state more affordable, a "C-plus" for his level of effort, a "C-minus" for property taxes and government spending and a "C" for ethics and education.

Corzine's recently approved plan to revamp state aid to public schools, his most significant public policy accomplishment to date, drew mixed reviews. While 51 percent of those polled said they hadn't heard of the plan, respondents who knew of it were split in their opinion: 45 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove.

The plan is designed to send more money to suburban and rural school districts facing enrollment increases and large numbers of special needs students. Still, the poll found 47 percent of people in older suburbs, 45 percent of people in newer suburbs and 42 percent of people in cities view the plan as bad.

The new aid formula also is meant to help control the nation's highest property taxes, but only 76 percent of New Jerseyans think it will help in that way.

"Most observers expect that there will be legal challenges to the new aid formula," Murray said. "The governor must hope it does better in the state's judicial system than it does in the court of public opinion."

The poll was conducted by telephone with 804 New Jersey adults from Jan. 9-13 and has a sampling error margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.