The radiance of sweetness and light at Gov. Chris Christie’s press conference this morning occurred after at least one high level Republican said he had been disappointed by the actions of both Christie and state Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, at the tail end of the budget process.
The two power players battled over aid cuts that people in Christie’s own party said they believed showed a vindictive streak and that forced Sweeney to first unload on Christie with a torrent of expletives and then give the state’s chief executive the silent treatment.
“I’m always willing to listen,” an apparently vacation-becalmed Christie told AP’s Angie Della Santi at this morning’s press conference, denying that his initial deep react cuts showed a ghoulish side.
“No one needs to be fired; it wasn’t retaliatory,” said Christie to a question about whether his specific red line of legislative staff monies was payback for Democrats politicizing the process.
Christie admitted Sweeney’s Star-Ledger words struck him hard on a Sunday morning when he picked up the phone to see what was wrong.
“We have a passionate relationship,” Christie said. “Sometimes it gets overly emotional. I’m candidly shocked the Star-Ledger would print what it printed. I know Steve. I know Steve well. Sometimes in a passionate relationship you say things you don’t mean.”
As of this morning’s press conference when the governor addressed the issue, Sweeney still hadn’t called back the governor.
“We have done amazing things together for the state of New Jersey,” said Christie as he announced his plan to restore $139 million in Transitional Aid while guaranteeing oversight of how that money is distributed to the cities.
A Republican source close to the governor applauded Christie’s nice guy lectern appearance as the right approach after the budget debacle gave Democrats the Grinch storyline they craved.
“Look, he’s just come off all kinds of wins, he knows that money has to go into the cities, he just needs concessions,” the source said.
Unconvinced by the governor’s rhetoric today, other Democrats noted with some distress that they did leave in language guaranteeing state oversight of funds, underlining the sentence as they presented it to the front office with the budget: “The transitional aid shall be provided to the municipality subject to such conditions, requirements, orders, and oversight as the Director deems necessary including the implementation of government, administrative and operational efficiency and oversight measures necessary for the fiscal recovery of the municipality.”
“Despite the governor’s rhetoric, the DCA has always retained proper oversight authority,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), East Orange. “Language providing for oversight remained untouched in the budget. In fact, I’ve made clear that fiscal accountability is always a priority, though these cities that are under constant fiscal stress need a level of independence to decide how best to serve residents. The simple fact is the governor should never have cut this money.”