Jul. 12, 2010 - Governor Christie Interview with Monica Crowley on 77WABC
MONICA CROWLEY: Alright welcome back everybody, I am Monica Crowley. Our telephone number 800-848-WABC. 800-848-9222. I do want to get right to it, because joining me now on the line is Governor Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, or as I prefer to call him: the 21st century Ronald Reagan. Hi Governor, welcome!
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Hey Monica. Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.
CROWLEY: Oh it’s so good to talk to you, and I know how busy you are fighting the evil forces of big government and big spending, so thank you so much for being here today. Governor, I have been saying on my national radio show and this morning on 77WABC that you are a hero of the republic. For many reasons, but mainly because you have shown an absolute fearlessness in taking on the entrenched interests in New Jersey who have exploded government and spending to the point where New Jersey had the biggest budget deficit in the nation relative to its budget. A lot of other governors, and many people in Washington, are marveling at the success that you have had in taking them on, defeating them, and taking a buzz saw to the budget. Even today’s New York Times, I noticed, says yet another favorable story about you. Tell us how you did it.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen. I think I was very clear during the campaign, as you are aware Monica, that this is what I was going to do. That if I was fortunate enough to be elected, that I was going to come in and that we had to cut spending, we had to shrink the size of government. And, I think if you are clear about that during an election, if you then come in and do exactly what you say you were going to do, what the people voted for, that you’re going to get the support of people across the state. Not because they love of every cut, because they don’t, but because they know this is what they voted for and they admire the fact that you’re doing what you said you were going to do. And that’s, I think, how we’ve been able to get it done. And it’s not easy, but it’s what we need to do because our state was drowning in debt the same way our country is drowning in debt, and I owe it to my four children to do something better than what’s been done right now.
CROWLEY: One of the amazing things that you have done Governor is that you have gotten right up in the grill of the public employees unions. So many politicians say that they are going to do that, and then once they get in office they don’t, or once they get the push-back from the unions they cave. What keeps you going? What keeps your political courage strong to do that, so that you don’t back down?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think Monica it’s just that I know this is what we have to do. We cannot continue to pay people <<unclear>>, continue to give one sector of our society free health benefits, give one sector of our society pensions, public pensions, that you know we can’t afford to pay for anymore. These are things that just are common sense, and so while I understand the politics of it, I also know that I’m presented with the choice. The choice is either do these things the way I’m doing them, or to continue to raise taxes to make my state noncompetitive and continue to have us have fewer and fewer private sector jobs in New Jersey. And it’s gonna kill our future and our kids’ future. So when confronted with that as the choice, candidly I think that the decision is relatively easy.
CROWLEY: We’re talking to the Governor of New Jersey, the great Chris Christie. You mentioned pensions Governor. You have gone after these public employee unions: teachers, police, firefighters, and so one. And you have said that you are willing to look at the unbelievably lush pensions that these unions have doled out, in conjunction with a lot of liberal governance that have gone along with it over the years. Some folks in New Jersey collect 2, even 3, different high-paying pensions, and some retire in their 40’s and they collect these pensions for the rest of their lives. Obviously New Jersey as you have been saying, New Jersey can’t sustain that. So what is your plan for pension reform?
CHRISTIE: Well we’ve already passed some pension reform Monica, in the first <<unclear>>. We passed pensions and health benefit reform that applies to new employees. Now what we have to do this fall, and I have a commitment from the legislature to examine this, we’ve now got to go after current employees and try to make it more reasonable in terms of what we’re doing because otherwise we’re going to end up like GM and Chrysler. If we are paying public pensions and health benefits that are so out of line with what the private sector is doing, we’re not going to be able to survive fiscally as a state. So the next step this year will be in the fall to do real pension and health benefit reform for current employees. And that’s something that needs to be done to out our state on the fiscal track it needs to be on so we can grow private sector jobs in the state and get people back to work. My point on all this has been: I have nothing against people who work in the public secto
CROWLEY: You’ve made the argument so clearly and so well and very effectively Governor about how we’re all in this together. In the state of New Jersey we’re all in this together, and I don’t care if you’re a teacher or a firefighter or you’re in the private sector, look we’ve got to do something here to get our fiscal house in order and get these public finances in order, and you are doing a remarkable job. One of the other things I noticed, there was a story yesterday, and again we’re talking to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, that you had commissioned a report to recommend privatizing certain government-run services, and this commission came up with possibly privatizing the Department of Motor Vehicle inspections, the state parks, the tolls along the Parkway and the Turnpike. I know people listening to us right now are sitting in those toll lines. I know the report just came to you, and you may not have had a chance to read it in full, but is there anything in
CHRISTIE: Well, I mean just the idea for instance of toll takers on the Parkway, the Turnpike, and the Atlantic City Expressway who are collecting wages that are just so out of whack with what we could do if we privatized that service, and saved that money for folks, and hopefully be able to forestall future toll increase, in part based upon on that. I mean, these are things that just make common sense. I don’t think we necessarily need a public employee to collect your toll on the Turnpike or the Parkway or the Atlantic City Expressway. So there are things to me that seem like low-hanging fruit, other things are going to be more difficult and we’re going to have to examine it. But what I asked Congressman Dick Zimmer, who is the chair of the commission, to do for me was to not worry about any of the politics of this, to give me every recommendation they thought made sense, and then we can work with the State Legislature to try and decide what we can actually get done.
CROWLEY: Governor Christie Whitman tried to privatize the Motor Vehicles inspection regime and it didn’t end very well. What are the lessons there, from that experience that you could carry over into possibly privatizing some of these other things?
CHRISTIE: Listen, you just have to do it better, and you have to be more competent than they were at it, and the fact is that we have learned a lot, and there’s a whole section in the privatization report, which I urge people to go to nj.gov which is our state website and you can read the privatization report, it’s on our website. But in the end, what it really is all about is there’s a whole section that talks about lessons learned from past failed privatization. And so I’m not saying that privatization is a panacea that solves all problems, but it does make sense to me that we need to get out of certain businesses that the government doesn’t belong in. We’ve talked about allowing the private sector to build preschools rather than have the public building preschools. There’s a thriving private preschool industry, we should be working in conjunction with the private sector, not in competition with them.
CROWLEY: Amen to that Governor. Again, we’re talking to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Okay, the scourge of New Jersey: taxes. Talk to us about your plans to perhaps cut the state income tax and deal with property taxes, which is another huge scourge of New Jersey. I know you wanted a constitutional amendment to cap property tax increases at 2.5%. What’s the latest status of dealing with the legislature on that?
CHRISTIE: Well there’s a lot of good news coming out now Monica. First is, that even in this difficult budget where we cut $11 billion in spending in order to balance the budget, we cut the corporate business tax in New Jersey by $100 million to try to spur more private sector economic growth. So we’ve already started to cut taxes in New Jersey, even in this very difficult environment. Secondly, you’re right. I was asking for a constitutional 2.5% cap in property taxes. The legislature, which is fully in control of what goes on the ballot for constitutional amendment or not, was saying they weren’t going to do it. And so I came up with a compromise which will be voted on finally today by the General Assembly. They wanted the cap to be legislatively put in, to be a statutory cap. I agreed to that, but we would have to take the number of exceptions to that cap from the 14 exceptions that they wanted to only 4 exceptions to the cap on local spending. Secondly, that we would have
CROWLEY: Fantastic! Well you are literally the most gutsy and effective leader I think we have on the political scene today Governor. Let me ask you a question about you. I know that you are a very humble guy but you are also doing in New Jersey, as you just described, what the rest of the nation needs: cutting big government and spending, and taking on the unions and others that have exploded our deficits, cutting taxes, keeping them low. You are just what we need in Washington. So, while I introduced you as the Governor of New Jersey, I would prefer to call you the next president of the United States. Any interest whatsoever in maybe even thinking about that.
CHRISTIE: No. No, I have said this very very clearly, as you know, I have no interest in that, I am committed to being Governor of New Jersey, I’ve only been doing it for six months. I want to do this job for the next four years and see if I want to try for another four after that. But I have absolutely no interest, Monica, in coming to Washington. The problems in Trenton are bad enough, and I’ve got to deal with those, I committed to the people of the state of New Jersey that I was going to do this job and do it as well as I could. And the idea of leaving that a moment before I would be done with my four years would just be something I wouldn’t want to do. So, no, I have no interest in doing it, not gonna happen. But I love being Governor of New Jersey, and I’m going to continue to try and help other folks around the country to see that this is what we need to do, but I’ll do it right here from the state capital in Trenton, not from Washington.
CROWLEY: Well Governor I appreciate your response to that question, but you may not have a choice because you may get drafted because we just love you out here. And we are out here cheering you on, you are doing phenomenal work. Stick to it. Don’t back down. You are just fabulous, and we’re out here supporting you Governor. Thank you so much.
CHRISTIE: Monica I really appreciate it, and thanks you all your listeners out there too who have been incredibly supportive of what we’re doing. And they’re encouragement means a great deal, helps keep me going every day.
CROWLEY: Our pleasure. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Thank you so much sir.