Christie Touts Accomplishments, Vows Tax Reform
Caldwell Community Center filled to capacity for governor's visit.
Governor Chris Christie got a warm welcome from residents who packed the Caldwell Community Center Monday afternoon to hear the governor talk about everything from tax relief to municipal consolidation.
He touted his accomplishments for the last two years as governor—touching on his tax vetoes, requiring public employees to contribute to health insurance, and his proposal to cut the state income tax.
Christie, as he garnered support for his budget, also took more than a few digs at the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, "My first job is to fight off all of the people in the Legislature who want to raise your taxes."
Christie's speech was punctuated with applause and one standing ovation after Lawrence Rachmiel, a senior citizen from West Caldwell, told him, "I think you're the best thing that's ever happened to New Jersey," adding that he would support Mitt Romney, Christie's nominee for president.
The governor spoke on a host of issues during his talk, but primarily stuck to the theme of money. He said he has proposed a 10 percent cut in income taxes for state residents, but still said there needs to be more property tax relief, "The only way to solve it is to spend less."
He also said:
- He would cut funding to Abbott school districts and complained the additional funds being spent in poorer districts are not guaranteeing the students there a better education.
- He supports breaking up the current New Jersey medical school structure and wants to see the UMDNJ campus and programs in Newark broken up into three smaller campuses, including Rutgers and Rowan Universities.
- He opposes raising the gas tax and wants to eventually reduce the state sales tax.
- The governor said he'd like to see a bigger capital investment in public colleges and universities to increase capacity and give aid to local students to keep students in state.
- He said the inheritance tax is unfair and penalizes the person who died as well as the recipient of the inheritance.
- Christie noted between 2004-2008, residents worth $70 billion in assets moved out of state—primarily to states with lower taxes.
Christie talked about two years of accomplishments since and said two years ago, the state had an $11 billion deficit and nearly didn't make its payroll in March 2010.
He said previous governors had raised taxes by 115 percent over eight years, but he vetoed the first proposed tax hike and instead cut state spending by 9 percent during the first year.
He earned a round of applause when he said he cut $1 billion in spending in the state budget, and refused to pass it as it was proposed by the state Legislature.
"They called me all kinds of names. . . Names I hadn't been called since high school," he said. "They said I was gonna ruin everything. The state was gonna go downhill. Yet, here we are." He said test scores have gone up, poor people are still able to get medical treatment, and he's brought pension costs down.
"This is the great thing about the Legislature. When they want to spend a billion dollars it's called 'investment'. . . When I want to cut a billion dollars, it's called 'irresponsible,'" he said.
"I have turned Trenton upside down," he said. "We're no longer talking about cutting taxes. We're talking about which taxes we should cut."
Elected officials and police chiefs from all three Caldwells, along with Fairfield, and county officials attended the Town Hall meeting. Residents ranged from school children from Trinity Academy to senior citizens, to The Amazing Kreskin, a resident of North Caldwell.
It is the first time Christie has held a meeting in Caldwell. Caldwell Mayor Ann Dassing said the last time a sitting governor held an event in Caldwell was in 2007 when then-Gov. Dick Codey arrived in town.
Residents stood in line in the 20-something degree weather to get a seat inside the Caldwell Community Center. Christie has held Town Hall meetings around the state throughout his administration, visiting his hometown of Livingston in December 2010. He told constitutents in Bridgewater just last month that New Jersey's "comeback" had begun.
Staffers from the governor's office said Christie would make his opening remarks and take questions from the floor.
The governor is known for his sharp-tongued answers if he does not care for a question or a questioner. According to a story in the Huffington Post, he warned constituents at a Town Hall meeting in West New York, "if you give it, you're gonna get it back."