KEANSBURG – Expressing little sympathy for newly-elected mayor Ras Baraka and his tender-footed administration at a press conference earlier today, Gov. Chris Christie said he’s “not making any commitment” to providing additional aid — specifically in monetary form — to a debt-ridden Newark.
“What I intend to do is work with the mayor as I worked with [U.S. Sen. and former Newark mayor] Cory Booker — in a cooperative way, where when responsible actions are taken by the government, to reward those actions, and when irresponsible actions are being taken, to call them out on that, and make sure that they take care of the money that’s already being invested in the city of Newark,” said Christie, who addressed a small crowd of residents and press core members perspiring under a hot sun in Keansburg, NJ, this morning. “Billions of dollars by the state and it’s taxpayers to be used in the right way.”
As the state’s largest city, Newark currently suffers from a budget deficit of $93 million. Essex County lawmakers — including Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) and other members of the county’s delegation — recently asked for $25 million in transitional aid from Christie to help alleviate that shortfall, but the governor’s latest budget included no such provisions.
Caputo called the move political, and argued that the anti-establishment Baraka should be “congratulated” instead of “punished”.
Christie, however, said he’s facing enough problems as he struggles to deal with the state’s own monetary crisis — his highly-controversial budget signed last week calls for cuts to the public pension system to plug a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall — and that Baraka will have to work with what the city’s already been given.
“Mayor Baraka and I have had, I think, already three conversations since he’s been elected, and I looked forward to having as many as he wants to have. But I’m not making any commitment in any way to any particular set of actions including sending money there,” he said. “I think all of you have seen we’re having some pretty significant budget problems, it’s not like there’s a lot of money lying around for me to take care of anybody in some of these municipalities. Mayors across the state are dealing with part of that issue, and mayor Baraka will have to deal with it as well.
“As I said to him when we met a few weeks ago, I look forward to his plan,” Christie added. “He talked during his campaign frequently about his plan to revitalize Newark and I look forward to seeing that plan and providing any assistance and critique that we can from the state’s perspective, while still doing our job, which is making sure that the city is run by the law and is responsible.”