Gov. Chris Christie doubts Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno’s plan to fund a costly property tax reduction in the state by auditing Trenton government, but the current lieutenant governor is standing by her plan despite Christie’s criticism.
Guadagno, who has been Christie’s second in command for nearly eight years, wants to cap the amount of property taxes per household that go to schools at five percent. The plan, which would cost $1.5 billion by Guadagno’s own estimates, would be primarily paid for by the audit, something she says could recoup close to $1 billion in New Jersey by forcing municipalities to share services, changing the public worker benefit system and eliminating other government waste.
“It will take work,” Christie told reporters on August 30. “She’ll have to make some hard choices about other spending that will need to be eliminated. No question. It won’t be fixed just by fraud, waste, and abuse or any of that hoo-ha.”
Christie doubled-down on those concerns this week when he told Politico that the money simply is “not there,” and that he “fundamentally disagrees” that an audit of government could find enough funding.
Guadagno says that average New Jersey homeowners would stand to save $800 per year under her plan. The Republican candidate is so confident in her ability to reduce property taxes that Guadagno has promised to opt out of a 2021 re-election bid if she is elected in November and fails to live up to her promise.
Guadagno spokesman Ricky Diaz would not speak directly to Christie’s remarks on Thursday but told Observer that Guadagno was looking at successful audits in Kansas and Louisiana that identified five-year savings of over $2 billion in each state. Guadagno’s campaign also pointed to a 1983 audit by Gov. Tom Kean that found $100 million in savings in New Jersey, something the campaign estimates would be about $250 million today without taking into account governmental growth.
“The lieutenant governor believes that we need to continually look for ways to make sure we are using tax money efficiently and it is something she has talked about extensively in this campaign and will continue to,” Diaz said.
In a letter to the editor published in the Asbury Park Press on Thursday, Guadagno said that she stands by her plan to audit government, hoping to find savings like what Kansas and Louisiana identified.
“I know that may not seem like a lot of money to a Goldman Sachs millionaire like Phil Murphy who has pledged to raise taxes by over $1.3 billion if elected, but I believe taxpayers need to have confidence that the money they send to Trenton is being spent efficiently and wisely,” Guadagno wrote.
Murphy’s plan would primarily raise taxes on corporations, the state’s wealthiest residents and would heavily tax legalized marijuana, another campaign promise he has made. But according to Guadagno, New Jersey’s residents cannot afford a bump in taxes regardless of income.
Despite Christie’s disagreement with a central tenant of Guadagno’s plan, the Republican has endorsed her. The two have rarely appeared together since she announced her candidacy and have departed on issues ranging from Christie’s support of a gas tax hike that went into effect last year and the $300 million State House renovation that he pushed through last year.