Corzine backs up Obama on stimulus package, while doubling up on his base

TRENTON – Republicans opposing President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package either don’t want to grasp the impact of the presidential election that Obama won on Nov. 4th or cannot resist remaining obstinately political, Gov. Jon Corzine said at a press conference today.

“The President has the support of the American people,” said Corzine, “but as is easily observed, we don’t seem to be living in post-partisan America.”

Republicans, said the governor, “are trying to rehash an election the President won by a substantial margin.”

The governor invoked the last election even as the cycle begins to crank up on his own reelection a day after former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie formally entered the governor’s race and a Quinnipiac University poll showed Christie leading Corzine, 44% to 38%.

At a Statehouse ceremony this morning, Corzine tried to take the teeth out of Christie’s recent pro-urban, pro-environment intonements by signing an executive order that bulks up both urban and environmental agendas with one stroke. Scheduled before Christie came with his pronouncements, according to the governor’s office, the order creates an advisory council to oversee environmental issues in low-income and minority communities.

It looked like base consolidation big time even if environmentalists like David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation and Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, criticized the executive order as fairly tepid stuff.

The governor dug in.

“Environmental issues affect all of us, but those who face economic challenges in life often struggle to have their voice heard when a community environmental concern arises,” said Corzine, standing outside his Statehouse office a day after Christie promised a plan to renew New Jersey’s cities, and questioned the environmental impacts of the Democrats’ Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) efforts.

Under the gilt-framed gaze of former Gov. Jim Florio, the signing ceremony and subsequent press conference placed a placid-looking governor in an official setting as Christie continued on the second-day of a statewide radial tire rollout.

Democrats mostly hit the snooze button on the Republican frontrunner’s campaign kickoff yesterday, quietly reminding anyone who would listen that Christie has a primary and the formidable ideological presence of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan to get through before he can claim to square off against the governor.

Today, Corzine resisted reporters who sought to propel him into the ring with Christie, who at his announcement referred to the governor as “a disappointment.”

“I intend to be working on the issues important to the people,” said Corzine. “I understand politics. But people care about their well-being.”

Inevitably political, however, is the ongoing divide at the federal level between Democrats like Corzine who favor President Barack Obama’s $900 billion economic stimulus package and Reagan Republicans like Christie who want more tax cuts.

“I concur with the president totally,” the governor said on the subject of the stimulus package hours before the U.S. Senate is expected to take action on the measure.

“Without a fundamental change in policy, without addressing a significant investment that fills a hole business and consumers are unable to fill, we are going to see a gathering of the (national economic) contraction,” Corzine said. “A recovery program is essential.”

Without Obama’s plan, the economic impact would be “catastrophic,” in the governor’s words. Without an infusion of substantial but as-yet-undetermined federal money, Corzine said state government here would certainly endure more severe cuts.

“We have postponed until March 10 the budget address as to see the (federal dollar) numbers,” he explained. “We’ve already cut $1.4 billion in this fiscal year. We’ve gotten close. It’s one of the largest percentage cuts in the nation.”

He reiterated his view that tax hikes in this national environment are not prescriptive to hoist the state out of its current economic crisis, and said he would implement them only as “a last resort.”

Corzine backs up Obama on stimulus package, while doubling up on his base