Whitman's on the Move

ANYONE who thought New Jersey's Christine Todd Whitman would be a passive governor might want to take another look at what's happening in the Garden State. Ms. Whitman, a Republican who was inaugurated as New Jersey's first woman governor this month, is shaking up the political establishment.

In her inauguration, Whitman not only refused to backtrack from campaign proposals to slash personal income taxes by 30 percent over three years - a position her opponent, Democratic Governor Jim Florio, called irresponsible - but now has moved the starting date backward. Instead of Phase 1 being a 10 percent tax cut beginning July 1, she wants a 5 percent tax cut for the entire tax year, retroactive to Jan. 1.

In picking her Cabinet, Whitman has been careful to choose people from diverse racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds.

Several of her key appointments - including the offices of secretary of state and attorney general - have gone to women, one of whom is black. In selecting a treasurer, the third top Cabinet post, Whitman tapped a former Reagan administration official from neighboring Pennsylvania.

And in the area of sports, Ms. Whitman, although a basketball and hockey fan, has scuttled a tentative deal worked out by her predecessor to relocate the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team to South Jersey; she has also talked about selling off, that is, ``privatizing,'' some assets of one of New Jersey's most treasured landmarks: its Meadowlands sports complex.

Time will tell how she fares with her proposals. The tax cut alone could cost the state up to $1.6 billion, experts say; that is $500 million more than Whitman campaign officials had estimated. Even Republican legislators worry about the impact of lost tax revenues.

Still, it is hard to deny that Whitman is going to be an articulate presence in Trenton. And we suspect that national Republicans, looking for prospective presidential and vice presidential candidates, will watch too. New Jersey's popular Democratic senator, Bill Bradley, barely escaped defeat at the hands of Whitman several years ago. And in last year's election, polls showed Governor Florio winning; few pundits took Whitman seriously.

Judging from the latest headlines out of the Garden State, that may have been very unwise.

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