A promise to cut red tape

//October 13, 2009

A promise to cut red tape

//October 13, 2009

Christie pledges to reduce burden on business, but critics press for detailsFor Chris Christie, the reason New Jersey business owners should support him for governor is simple: “The other two candidates are going to raise taxes in the next four years, and I’m not,” he said.

His experience as the corruption-fighting U.S. attorney for New Jersey and his focus on reducing the tax and regulatory burden will benefit the owners of small and midsized businesses, he said.

“What people will see about me, from my time as a prosecutor, is that I was able to make difficult decisions, and to execute on them, to make sure they were implemented,” he told NJBIZ.

Christie spent most of the year enjoying a substantial lead in public opinion polls, only to see that lead evaporate in late September and early October. He has said that the race was always going to be close, considering the 15-percentage-point margin by which Barack Obama won the state and the large Democratic advantage in voter registration.

When it comes to the state’s reputation for over-regulating business, Christie promised running mate Kim Guadagno would lead a “red tape review group” that brings business and environmental leaders to the table. He has vowed to freeze any new regulations or mandates as his first executive order and eliminate unnecessary measures within 90 days.

“It will be a great boon for small and medium-sized businesses,” he said.

In another bid to reduce the burden on business, Christie said he wants to cut the cost of providing health care by opening up the state to competition from other states.

To achieve tax cuts while the state faces a projected $8 billion deficit next year, Christie said he’ll focus on cutting spending. “The only way you can effectively, over the long haul, lower taxes is to lower spending,” he said. He has responded to criticism that he hasn’t specified spending cuts by citing some potential savings, such as adding lower-cost charter schools in urban school districts.

He also said there would be no confusion as to who he is representing in negotiations with state workers. “I think at times when you have a governor who’s out there playing union organizer, there’s some confusion about who he’s representing,” Christie said.

Business owners are mixed on Christie.

Kit Schackner, partner in a Bloomfield woodworking business, Foley Waite Associates, said his concentration on cutting government will lead to fewer programs that benefit businesses.

“He has no idea and no plan” how to cut spending, Schackner said. She added that she is concerned about how well Christie will work with a federal government led by Democrats.

Christie said he would work well with Obama, noting that he and the president both support charter schools and merit pay for teachers.

Ailish Hambel, owner of Alpine Paint Center, in Sparta, said she has been impressed with Christie since he was U.S. attorney. She said he stood up for what’s right when he was a prosecutor and is glad that he has focused on making the state more business friendly.

“He’s going to surround himself with good people,” Hambel said.

Christie said he would work with business groups like the state Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, but he is more focused on their members.

“My agenda is a pro-growth, pro-tax-cut agenda, which should be one that I think would go very well with groups like the chamber and the NJBIA. In the end, what I care much more about is that my policies are ones that are favored by their members, than necessarily by their leadership,” he said.

Christie said he will talk with former Gov. Tom Kean about how to work with a Democratic Legislature.

“We’ll build relationships, we’ll reach out — and we’ll compromise where it’s appropriate, because people are tired of government fighting each other,” Christie said, noting the state shutdown of 2006 occurred with a government controlled by Democrats.

While Christie and Gov. Jon S. Corzine have been focusing their attacks on each other, independent Chris Daggett has been rising in the polls, but Christie said he is the alternative to the incumbent.

“While I have great respect for Mr. Daggett, you know, he’s not a factor in this race, in terms of whether he’s going to be governor,” Christie said. “He won’t be governor.”

With the state facing large deficits in funds ranging from the unemployment insurance trust fund to the future commitments to public employee pensions and retiree health care, Christie said the state must be more disciplined. When asked what will separate him from previous Republican administrations, which cut taxes but didn’t cut spending, Christie said he is unlike his predecessors.

“As U.S. attorney, I came in and said I was going to battle corruption and terrorism. We did two of the largest terrorism cases in the country, post-9/11, and we did more political corruption work than almost any U.S. attorney’s office in the country,” Christie said. “I don’t say things unless I mean them, and I mean that we’re going to reduce spending in this state, and we will.”

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