May 8, 2007 / 5:26 PM / 12 years ago

Corzine's poll ratings firm despite high-speed crash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey’s Gov. Jon Corzine’s approval ratings rose 5 percentage points to 58 percent from March despite a high-speed crash that hospitalized him for 18 days and forced the Senate leader to step in, a new survey said on Tuesday.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine listens during a news conference in front of Drumthwacket, the Governor's residence, in Princeton, New Jersey, May 7, 2007. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky

The Democratic governor resumed work on Monday, nearly a month after the near-fatal crash that broke 11 of his ribs, his left leg, collarbone and sternum.

“This means that he has a much better chance of being effective as he gets back to work,” Peter Woolley, the director of Fairleigh Dickenson University’s poll, said in a statement.

The contrite Corzine, now working from the governor’s mansion while undergoing physical therapy, has apologized for setting a poor example in a car accident in which his vehicle was speeding and he was not wearing a seat belt.

A Corzine spokesman had no immediate comment on the poll, which also found that voters disapprove of a centerpiece of his plan to fix the state’s rickety finances: leasing state assets to private companies.

Some 63 percent of the 648 voters surveyed opposed such a deal for the Turnpike — the same percentage that were against leasing the lottery, the university’s poll said.

A majority of the voters, 54 percent, say they had heard little or nothing about these proposals. Corzine hired investment bank UBS AG last year to recommend which assets to privatize.

“The governor may have lost valuable time in persuading the public to accept these novel ideas for financing the state’s spending appetite,” said Woolley, whose conducted the poll from May 1 through May 6.

Credit analysts, bankers and construction companies fret that voters’ doubts about privatizing assets have grown since Chicago two years ago fueled the trend by getting $1.83 billion for leasing its main commuting toll bridge to Indiana.

In Texas, for example, on Monday a public agency offered $500 million more for a road project that Republican Gov. Rick Perry had awarded to Spanish firm Cintra. And the legislature enacted a two-year moratorium on new deals.

New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey, who became acting governor when Corzine was hospitalized, enjoys a fat approval rating of 73 percent, according to the new survey, whose margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Codey, a Democrat, also ran the state after former Gov. James McGreevey resigned in 2004 amid a sex scandal.

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