March 29, 2010 - ON AIR: Audio And Transcript Of Governor Christie's Radio Interview With WWZY's Anita Velardo

“The people of New Jersey are ready to do these tough things, they just want someone to lead them there, and that’s the job I got sent here to do.”

- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Photo of Governor

You can listen to Governor Christie's March 28 interview with WWZY's Anita Velardo on
The Breeze Knows radio show by clicking HERE

Full Transcript

Anita Velardo:  We have a special guest with us today, Governor Chris Christie welcome to the Jersey Shore, thanks for coming on the program with us today.

Govenor Christie:  Anita I am thrilled to be on, thanks for having me.

Anita Velardo:  Governor, of course we’re going to talk about your budget, seems like everybody’s talking about it these days.  You know for a long time we here in Monmouth and Ocean County have felt that we got the short end the stick from Trenton and now it seems like you’re saying your budget is sharing the pain.

Govenor Christie:  It’s shared sacrifice for everybody.  We walked in here to an $11 billion budget deficit, that was left for us. And this has been building for over the last 20 years.  We’ve been unwilling to say no to anyone.  And it’s put us in the situation now where are economy is worse than any in the region because we tax too much and we spend too much. So what we need to do is stop spending so much so then we can stop taxing so much and grow the economy and put our people back to work. This budget is the down payment on the growth that we want to see in the future.     

Anita Velardo:   Okay, by now I think most school districts and towns have gotten their numbers can you just explain in a nut shell how you arrived at those final numbers at aid for, cause I think that’s probably the most controversial part of your budget.

Govenor Christie:  Sure.  No on the school aid Anita, what we did was we said that every school district should take a 5% cut in their budget.  And that is the way we applied it across the board.  So, now in some of the school districts where we don’t receive a lot of state aid that 5% cut eliminated most if not all of their state aid.  In some districts that receive a lot of state aid, that meant that it still was a significant amount of money.  For instances, the school board in Newark had a $45 million cut to their budget and so there was significant cuts but in no district did it amount to more than 5% of their overall budget. 

Anita Velardo:   It is no secret that the New Jersey Education Association is very critical of these cuts.  They say that their members will not be bullied into paying for what they call misguided priorities.  They say that you’re hurting education.  What do you say to that?

Govenor Christie:  Anita, let’s make this really clear.  First off, we had no choice to make the cuts we made because we lost a billion dollars in federal aid to education this year.  Now, we were able to increase the money from state aid by $230 million, but that still left us with a $820 million hole that you simply can’t fill in any kind of significant way given the tax structure in this state.  And so we’ve asked everybody to make a shared sacrifice.  The teachers union, let’s be clear, if every teacher in New Jersey this year took a pay freeze, just for one year, and paid 1.5% of their salaries toward health benefits, that would make up 800 million of the 820 million. Now, in a time where we have nearly 10% unemployment, when were in the top ten in the country in for closures, and people are struggling to make ends meet.  Why should the teachers union be demanding 4 and 5% raises for their members, and taking those raises and paying absolutely nothing toward their health benefits.  There’s not another profession in New Jersey that gets that kind of benefit and so we’re asking everybody to share in the sacrifice.  So if there are layoffs and program cut backs, it’s because the teachers union has decided they don’t want to join in the sacrifice.           

Anita Velardo:   Now the union says that some teachers do give something.

Govenor Christie:  Very few teachers give a little bit, the overwhelming majority of teachers don’t pay anything toward their health benefits and are getting 4 and 5% raises.  Which at this time are four and five times the rate of inflation.  And now you talk to people in the private sector, they are not getting any raises at all, some of them haven’t gotten raises in two years.  And even public sector non-union state workers have not gotten a raise since 2006.  Now everybody is making sacrifices up and down the line in fact some teachers are doing the right thing.  In Essex County, the West Essex School Board got together will the West Essex Education Association, the teacher union in their district, and they agreed to a wage freeze and to pay a portion of their health benefits and they were able to avoid laying off teachers and other employees because of it.  That is an extraordinary bit of stand up action.  And you know the union in West Essex took a vote, they voted 133 to 7 in favor of taking a pay freeze because they didn’t want to see their colleagues lose their jobs.  That’s the kind of togetherness and family conduct we need during these difficult times in New Jersey.  And I wish the teacher’s union would stop worrying about their reputation as the big bully on state street and start worrying more about our kids and their members.              

Anita Velardo:  Now a lot of people say that thought really the big moneys on the top with superintendents and the administrators.  

Govenor Christie:  There is big money there and Commissioner Schundler, Commissioner of Education, and the executive county of superintendents have been demanding that administrative cuts be made first.  And so you’re seeing significant cuts and people forgoing their raises.  Principles all across New Jersey have agreeing to forego their raises this year.  Superintendents have been agreeing too.  And we’re seeing cuts in administrative function.  But let’s be clear, the real money in education are the salaries and benefits that are given to the 185,000 public school teachers we have in New Jersey.  Those far outnumber administrators.  Administrators need to share in the sacrifice, and Commissioner Schundler is making sure they do that.  But in the end, the real money is what we pay to teachers.  Believe me this is not a probable with teachers, because you looks at West Essex situation, when the teachers were given the right to vote, they voted 133 to 7 to step up and be part of the solution and take the pay freeze.  The union is not permitting them to do that, in fact they’re discouraging them from doing that all around the state.  There’re being the problem not the solution.                 

Anita Velardo:   So when we look at the cut to municipalities.  You have taken a no new taxes pledge, but many have said that because you cut the aid to the municipalities, they will have to raise property taxes. So, what’s your challenge to the towns?  How can they keep their property taxes down?  Speaking as a property taxpayer myself,   

Govenor Christie:  Sure.  And me too.  I pay property taxes in New Jersey also. And here is how they can so it.  We’re giving them the tools to make a difference.  We’re going to do civil service reform.  We’re going to do collective bargaining reform, which will allow them all to try to manage their budgets and their workforce better.  But in the short-term what’s going to mean is doing more with less.  It’s probably going to mean some layoffs, but let’s remember this, in 2009 the private sector in New Jersey lost 121,000 jobs.  In 2009, municipalities and school boards added 11,300 jobs.  Now that’s just outrageous.  And they’re going to have to start to lay some people off, not continue to hire at the pace they hired in 2009 in the middle of a recession.  So I think at the municipal level, especially at some municipalities, there’s a lot of fat there that can be trimmed away.  A lot of friends that we’re given jobs who are going to have to be told it’s not going to work in this economy.  There’s a lot of Mayors who are already doing that.  Ramsey up in Bergen County yesterday.  Mayor Botta up there is doing a great job in doing more with less and not having property tax increases because of this cut.  Everybody needs to ban together to do that; there are ways to fix it without raising taxes. 

Anita Velardo:   I know Mayor Acropolis in Brick also talking about working with you and he’s head of the Ocean County Mayor’s, I believe, Association, so, you do have some support.

Govenor Christie:  He is and he’s done a great job; a great job.

Anita Velardo:   Yup, he has.  And all of what you want to do requires support from the legislature.  Last week I talked with Lou Greenwald and Joe Malone, do you think you’ll be able to work with them and the budget comity?

Govenor Christie:  Absolutely do.  Listen, I’ve proposed a budget, it is a balanced budget as required by the Constitution.  And I’ve told them that if they want to make changes to that budget, I’m willing to listen and willing work with them, as long as we’re not raising income taxes or sales taxes on the people of the state of New Jersey.  We are now the highest taxed state in America, we have the second highest income tax rate, the second highest sales tax, the sixth highest corporate business tax, and the most expensive property taxes in America.  We cannot continue on that path and expect that we’re going to get economic growth which will put our people back to work.  And so, if they want to work within the budget that we have and make some changes, I’m more than happy to consider those changes when they send them to me, but I am not going to sign a tax increase in New Jersey. 

Anita Velardo:   Ok, you’re biggest supporters are probably the business community, but they are worried about the unemployment insurance trust fund.  Any progress on that?  I know you proposed some legislation and I know you also asked Washington for help.

Govenor Christie:  Right, and now listen, the Washington help is more long term help.  We have to fix ourselves and help ourselves in the short term.  And so, I’ve made a proposal that asks for sacrifice from everybody involved; a 17% tax increase on employers to help shore up the fund, and also some sacrifice from those who are getting benefits, to take $50 a week, not for the people that are currently unemployed, but from only people who become newly employed after the enactment of the statute, would take $50 less, from $600 a week to $550 a week.  Now, to put this in context Anita, that would make us from the second richest unemployment benefits in America, to the third richest unemployment benefits in America.  It’s a small amount of sacrifice to be asked for on both sides and it will, on our plan, will bring the fund to solvency quicker than if we just raise taxes.

Anita Velardo:   Ok, and healthcare reform that was just passed, I know a lot of states say that they are going to join in a lawsuit.  Have you looked at it and what that is going to mean for New Jersey?

Govenor Christie:  I have my Chief Council, my Attorney General, and my Commissioner of Health, looking at that right now and they’re going to come back to me with advice on how this bill affects New Jersey and then I’ll be able to make an informed decision and not just a political one on whether I want to proceed with any legal action or not. 

Anita Velardo:   Ok, and you will let us know, I assume, as soon as you decide whether you will take action or not. 

Govenor Christie:  As you’ve learned Anita, I’m not shy about letting people know what I think.

Anita Velardo:   No, that is definitely true.  And just lastly, any decisions yet on Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin?

Govenor Christie:  No, we’re just starting the prosecutorial process.  We’ve got a number of folks up this coming summer, including Prosecutor Valentin, whom I have worked with before; worked with me in the Unites States Attorney’s Office, and whom I have great respect for.  But we’re going to work with the State Senators in Monmouth County and we’re going to work through a normal process to consider all the candidates who might be potentially available for all the different prosecutor’s positions, and when we get closer to June we’ll be in a position to make some of those decisions. 

Anita Velardo:   Ok, and Transportation Trust Fund about to run out.  Any thoughts on that?  I know, you know, everything is so tied now with NJ Transit Hearings right now and their budget and their rate increases, but long term, we’ve got to do something about transportation, right?

Govenor Christie:  We do, and to tell you the truth Anita, that is this summer’s crisis.  I need to focus right now getting the budget balanced, filling that $11 billion hole, working with the Legislature to repair the bankrupt Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.  Those are the things I’m working on now, once we get passed June 30th, then I’ll be working with the DOT Commissioner to start to come up with solutions for the crisis we have at the Transportation Trust Fund.  I mean, we were left with a Transportation Trust Fund near bankruptcy, the Unemployment Insurance Fund in bankruptcy, and the State budget $11 billion in debt.  But everyone should feel good after nine weeks in office, we have cut $13 billion in spending in nine weeks; $2.3 billion going to fiscal year 2010, for the budget year we are currently in, and another $10.7 billion for fiscal year 11.  We promise to shrink the size of government and to make New Jersey more affordable, and we are well on our way to doing it.

Anita Velardo:   And I think what’s encouraging, we did see some private sector growth last month in jobs. 

Govenor Christie:  We sure did, and I think it’s because we are sending a very strong signal, a very strong signal to folks to say, “We mean business, we’re going to make it more business friendly in New Jersey, we’re going to get taxes moving down in the right direction, come to New Jersey, re-invest in New Jersey, and help put our people back to work. 

Anita Velardo:   Governor Chris Christie, thank you so much for coming on the program, come back any time ok?

Govenor Christie:  Anita, thanks so much, I appreciate it and you bet I will!

Anita Velardo:   Governor Chris Christie, my guest this morning on the Breeze, knows my Producer Charlie Torres. Charlie, I know you’re going to put up all kinds of helpful information on our website for people that want to find out more information about how the Governor’s budget impacts our area. 

Charlie Torres:  Yea, right in the Breeze notes section of our website, BreezeRadio.com, Anita, I’m going to be posting a link to the Governor’s website.  It’s got a lot of great features and a wealth of information on his budget.  From there listeners will also be able to follow his updates via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  Now, most municipalities in Monmouth and Ocean County are seeing double digit losses in state aid for his budget.  I’m putting up a link to the DCA’s website where everyone can look up their individual town to see the break down.  So, lots of good stuff.

Anita Velardo:   And that is my Producer Charlie Torres, thanks as always, and I want to say thank you for sharing a bit of your Sunday morning with us.

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