TRENTON – Heralded by his opponents for his blunt-spoken approach, Gov. Chris Christie to at least one power player nevertheless morphed into the Republican version of the man he replaced, former Gov. Jon Corzine, whose soft-spoken machinations ultimately added up to an aloof governing style that even Democrats still complain never made them feel part of the process.
Engaging in early symbolism that suggested he would be a robust team player, Christie’s now channeling sytlistics reminiscent of the beleaguered Democratic governor, complained Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), who also has a problem with the substantive aspects of Christie’s proposed $2.5 billion in budget cuts.
For starters, “I’m worried that he’s showing an antipathy to the legislature,” said the Middlesex Democrat. “He didn’t live up to his rhetoric of transparency and bipartisanship, and signaled that he’s not interested in working in a collaborative way. I was taken in by the rhetoric.”
Corzine was remote, according to his same-party Statehouse critics. He didn’t work with legislators because he didn’t come from the world most politicians inhabit.
Buono’s trouble with the new governor came last night after Christie Chief of Staff Richard Bagger said Democratic leadership would be privy to budget details at 8 a.m., the majority leader said. At 9 a.m. today, Buono said she was still waiting for the information at the Senate Majority Office. So she decided to go ask for it and ultimately obtained assurance that it was on its way from Bill Stepien, Christie’s deputy chief of staff.
Buono also objected to the content of Christie’s speech.
“The choices being made put a burden on the backs of middle class taxpayers,” she said, pointing to Christie’s expressed desire to rely on local school district surpluses to make up for a proposed $475 million in state education aid.
Buono said her alternatives would include using plug money from what she said is the state’s $500 million built-in surplus, and extending the income tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Jerseyans.
“But he didn’t want to consult with us,” Buono said.