Gov. Chris Christie appeared at the Wednesday, scolding Democrats for not producing a workable budget and addressing local concerns - including the future of the local access at the township’s parkway rest stop.
Christie opened his town hall remarks by repeating the refrain "18 Days," saying that the Democratic legislature had that amount of time to produce a budget before the June 30 deadline, and the budget must include some form of tax relief. “No tax cuts, No budget,” said Christie, standing in front of placard reading, “18 Days Left For Legislature to Deliver Tax Relief.”
He compared legislative Democrats to a "child given a book report assignment," saying that they both procrastinate until the last minute only to have to cram to get it done.
The Republican governor has repeatedly accused Democrats of standing in the way of a 10 percent tax-cut proposal in front of the Legislature. Democrats point to lower than expected tax revenues and projected shortfalls as reasons to not cut taxes, with some calling for tax increases in the form of a “millionaire’s tax” instead.
Christie rebutted this, saying he would “hold his foot to the throats of Democrats” to prevent any tax increases. “You know how to spend your money better than they do,” Christie said to loud applause.
In outlining his accomplishments in cutting spending, fighting government waste and reforming pensions, the governor gave the SRO crowd of approximately 800 some local facts and figures. He said that, due to pension reform, he was able to slash Galloway’s pension obligations by 5 percent to municipal employees and 25 percent to the police department. “That translates into $550,000 in property tax relief,” he added.
At the same time his administration was able to increase state aid to the school district by 4 percent, or just under $1 million, he said.
Christie addressed other local matters once the floor was open to questions from the audience.
The governor said would look into concerns that Galloway residents have about losing access to the local Garden State Parkway rest stop off Jimmie Leeds Road. Access to The Atlantic City Service area and Parkway from Jimmie Leeds Roads will only remain open until an interchange is built, state officials have said.
Using a question from a resident with a severely ill relative about a proposed medical marijuana clinic in the area, he addressed the issue on a statewide basis. “I do not support programs like those in California and Colorado, which essentially have legalized it,” he said. If a person is truly sick and marijuana is what is called for, he is in favor of dispensing it.
However, he added, it is a local issue that municipal governments and their planning and zoning boards must agree to accept. The governor added a clinic had gotten preliminary approval in Montclair in Essex County and it was his understanding the proposed one in nearby Egg Harbor Township is “moving forward.”
In a moment of levity, Christie took a question from three youngsters standing on their chairs waving their hands in unison. When their “spokesman” asked, “What do you need to know to be governor?” Christie chuckled along with the audience.
“I don’t know enough yet” he replied. He then went on to say that in the end you need to want to help people.
The Republican governor took one last swipe at the Democrats when asked by a member of Galloway’s school administration if there was some way to relieve the toll education funding takes on those paying property taxes. “More than two-thirds of our municipal taxes go to the schools,” he said.
The governor said the only option at this point would be to “dramatically” increase both the state’s income and sales taxes. Statewide, the average cost of education is $17,700 per student for a total 26 billion dollars, explained the governor.
Sixty-five percent of that state aid is mandated to go to a very small percentage of school districts most of which are in cities and are “at risk or failing,” he added.
The state Supreme Court has upheld this policy. “So, we need to change the Supreme Court,” Christie said.
But Democrats have rejected his nominees because as Christie claims one legislator told him, “They don’t want to change the liberal nature of the court.”
“I nominated an Amherst graduate, who went to Yale Law School, and they told me he was ‘unqualified,’” he said. “What does that tell you?”
This was Christie's 84th town hall meeting since he took office in 2010. The governor said there will be many more in the days leading up to the budget deadline.