Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Great Conversationalist Rallies

Tuesday March 31, 2009, 6:18 PM

Former Republican Gov. Tom Kean, who usually avoids criticizing his successors, says he is so angry about Gov. Jon Corzine's plan to slash arts funding that he is considering filing a lawsuit against Corzine himself.

Kean said he is "outraged" at the governor's proposal to cut cultural funds to below the minimums outlined by the law. The Republican elder statesmen -- who is honorary chairman of Republican Chris Christie's gubernatorial campaign to unseat Corzine -- is calling for arts advocates to sue if the budget is passed without arts funding restored to the statutory levels. In fact, he said he may file his own lawsuit because he feels so strongly that the Democratic governor is wrong. "I haven't decided yet. I think it's an important enough issue," said Kean about legal fight. "My hope is the Legislature would go back and fund the arts at least up to the statutory level. The arts are funded less now than they were in the 90s when I was governor. That's outrageous."

Regarded by many as the godfather of New Jersey arts, Kean campaigned hard in 2003 for hotel-motel tax, which was meant to guarantee that a portion of the tax revenue would help fund the arts. The law includes a "poison pill" provision that eliminates the tax should arts funding drop below $16 million. Corzine's plan calls for $14.4 million, or $1.6 million under the law's threshold.

"I've never campaigned for a tax before in my life," said Kean, who is 73. "We put all that work into it. The Legislature guaranteed it. And somebody says, 'I'm not going to do it anyway.'"


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