Gov. Christie delivered a warning to Democrats on Thursday that he was no
longer going to be a "nice" guy as he challenges the Legislature to cut
spending and lower taxes.
"We have to call them out," Christie told a group of 550 who applauded his rapid succession of attacks at a luncheon sponsored by the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce in Cherry Hill. "I've been pretty nice until now. That ends today."
The Republican governor is better known for in-your-face politics than being the diplomat. On Thursday, he called legislators "hypocrites" while he claimed to be the "adult supervision for that circus we have in Trenton" and a "guardian at the gate" selected by voters.
While still enjoying popularity from being in the national spotlight, Christie said his poll ratings, currently at a high, rise and fall by "what comes out of my mouth."
He entered the room to a standing ovation before beginning an hour-long talk, taking credit, as he often does, for changes to public worker pensions and teacher tenure.
From the time he was elected in 2009, Christie has sparred with the Democratic majorities of both houses of the Legislature over plans to cut taxes and decrease spending. On Thursday, Christie said both remain priorities.
Christie had wanted to enact a 10 percent property tax cut beginning in January, but Democrats would agree only to set some money aside to pay for the first year of a tax cut if the state met Christie's revenue projections. So far, revenues have come in far short of what Christie banked on, meaning the Legislature could be forced to cut from the $31.7 billion budget before the fiscal year ends June 30.
Christie challenged a long list of programs that have passed through one chamber of the Legislature, including a summer enrichment program in New Brunswick sponsored by Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), who is considering running against Christie next year.
Buono said Thursday that she thinks Christie is trying to change the subject amid news of some jobs leaving the state. "He ought to know he can't bully his way to creating jobs," she said.
Christie also mocked legislative initiatives to put kitchens in day-care centers, subsidize towns with large tax-exempt cemeteries, and promote responsible fatherhood.
The Legislature, Christie said, acts as if Trenton has a money tree.
"I will be the person, as popular or unpopular as it may be at the moment, to look the purveyors of old politics in Trenton in the eye and say one simple word: No," Christie said.
While Christie spoke about increasing private-sector jobs, he did not note the state's 9.9 percent unemployment rate, compared with the national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
Although Christie did not name specific polls, he said 53 percent of New Jersey residents said the state was heading in the right direction, compared with 19 percent under Corzine's leadership.
A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Thursday said 53 percent of respondents approved of Christie's job performance, while 35 percent disapproved. Among registered voters, 55 percent approved, while 36 percent disapproved. A recent Inquirer New Jersey Poll showed a 59 percent job approval rating, and 36 percent disapproving.
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