In a conference call with the press today, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani compared the budget situation he inherited when he took office in 1994 to the one New Jersey faces now, and argued that Chris Christie is the only candidate for governor who can solve the crisis.
“Even the numbers are fairly close. I had at the time about a $36 billion budget… and I had a $2.3 billion deficit that turned out to be much larger than my opponent had been saying it was during the election,” Giuliani said, comparing that to the $1.5 to $2 billion gap from an already austere projection here in New Jersey.
Giuliani, who like Christie served as a U.S. Attorney, said that he threw out conventional wisdom about what to do in dire budget situations when he became mayor, choosing to cut spending and taxes instead of raise them.
Although Giuliani did create a surplus soon after taking office, he ultimately left his successor, Michael Bloomberg, with a deficit and a slightly larger public workforce than the one he inherited. Even before the September 11 attacks that hurt the city’s economy and catapulted Giuliani to national stardom, he projected that his successor would face a $2.8 billion shortfall. After 9/11, the deficit grew to $4.8 billion.
Giuliani, who is arguably Christie’s highest profile backer, has made several appearances on behalf of Christie, and has even taped robocalls for his campaign. In February, Giuliani stumped for Christie on the Hoboken waterfront. Yesterday, the two held a press conference in front of the Fox News studios in midtown Manhattan. Aside from Giuliani being a well-known figure in New Jersey, he and Christie share a link through Christie consultant Mike DuHaime, who managed Giuliani’s 2008 presidential bid.
Giuliani panned Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s fiscal record, and went after Christie’s closest primary opponent, Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, for his flat tax proposal that for raising taxes for lower-income New Jerseyans and senior citizens.
“Chris is not just facing a tax and spend Democratic governor, he’s facing a basically tax and spend opponent in the primary… Under the guise of tax reform, his opponent in the primary wants to raise taxes on approximately 70% of the people in New Jersey,” he said. “Republicans need to make sure they vote for Chris… Otherwise they’re going to wind up with people who are trying to outdo each other by how much they’re going to raise taxes in the general election.’
Giuliani read a quote from conservative publishing tycoon Steve Forbes, who despite his long-term advocacy for a federal flat tax, has endorsed Christie. In the quote, Forbes criticized Lonegan’s state flat tax proposal and said that “the key is to get the tax rates down and then we can reform the tax system.”
Christie, for his part, used Giuliani’s time as mayor as a bulwark against arguments that having experience as a federal prosecutor does not translate into becoming an effective executive.
“Even today, New York is still benefiting from the groundwork and foundation that Mayor Giuliani laid in those very difficult years in the early 1990s,” he said. “A former prosecutor has done this once before.”
Lonegan strategist Rick Shaftan said that he did not want to dispute Giuliani’s charges one-by-one because he does not consider him a conservative.
“The guy vouching for Chris Christie’s conservative credentials is the man who endorsed Mario Cuomo and ran three times on the Liberal Party line. Who’s next, Arlen Specter?,” he said.