TRENTON — Minutes after Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) told reporters that the state's current budget forecast is the worst he's seen in his 22 years as a legislator, Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie held a news conference to outline his proposals for taking a "hands on role" in stimulating the state's economy.
In a key point meant to counteract the common argument that the Bush Administration is to blame for landing the country and therefore the state in its current cash-strapped predicament, Christie argued that New Jersey has its own government's policies to blame – not the global economic recession.
"For seven years now, two governors and a Democratic legislature have succeeded in making New Jersey the worst place in the nation for private sector employment. That's beyond dispute and it's going to take a number of years for us to restore the state's image," said Christie, the former U.S. Attorney.
The overarching theme of Christie's proposals, which included tax cuts, eliminating the Economic Development Authority, doing away with the position of chief of economic growth, health insurance reform, government agency fine and fee reform, legal liability reform and the creation of a "Red Tape Review Board," was to make New Jersey a more business-friendly state.
Christie's Lieutenant Governor would head up the "New Jersey Partnership for Action," the aim of which would be to facilitate better communication between state government and businesses.
Christie noted that the vast majority of the state's job growth has been in the public sector, while nearby states like Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts all posted better private sector job growth numbers.
"I don't know if those were little island oasis that were exempt from the national economic problems – that only New Jersey suffered from the national economic problems," he said. "I suspect that it's the policies this government put in place to try to drive down any possibility of private sector job growth."
Although Christie said he would cut income and corporate taxes, he did not go into specific figures and was careful to cast doubt on the prospect of implementing cuts in his first year in office, if elected.
"Let me make it clear: I have not said I'm going to lower taxes in the first year. I expect that I will inherit in January a mess of the budget, because this Governor is once again relying on quick fix gimmicks," said Christie.
Christie aimed his critical remarks solely Corzine, only acknowledging Republican rival Steve Lonegan when a reporter asked him to comment on Lonegan's flat tax proposal. Christie responded that he'd prefer to limit his comments to his own idea.
Christie also promised that he would go about reforming the government policies with a bipartisan focus. Even his criticism of Corzine was mixed with favorable remarks about Democratic governors in other states, like En Rendell in Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine in Virginia — the only other state that has a gubernatorial race this year.
"The people of the state quite frankly don't care if the solutions are from Republicans or Democrats. What they care is that someone is going to take these problems by the throat and fix them," said Christie.