New Jersey businesses will be essential in the effort to cut taxes and rein in government spending, Gov. Chris Christie told the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night in Washington.
Christie said he needs the crowd filled with business executives: “I need you to stand up” for job creation, spending cuts and stopping wasteful borrowing.
“Our mission together is to put our people back to work, not to play the politics in the halls of Trenton that they’re playing right now,” Christie said.
U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) and Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and other congressional Democrats skipped the event after the chamber decided to have Christie be the only public official speaking. The association’s president, Thomas A. Bracken, apologized for the low turnout by members of Congress for the event, which is called the congressional dinner. He added that the chamber would work to increase their attendance in the future.
Christie focused his speech on the economy. He noted the smiles on the faces of building trades workers busy with the construction of Revel Entertainment‘s casino in Atlantic City, pleased because they have jobs.
“That should be our number-one priority in New Jersey,” Christie said.
He also contrasted his administration’s approach with those of his predecessors.
“In New Jersey, state government believed that you were the money tree, and they proved it over and over and over again,” Christie said, adding that the state overspent, overtaxed and over-borrowed, including raiding the unemployment insurance trust fund.
Christie said the state is on pace to put more than $2 billion in business tax cuts in pockets of business owners over the next four years, so that they can hire workers.
“We stopped the bleeding by stopping the spending,” Christie said, adding that he will stand behind the business tax cuts.
Christie expressed dismay with legislators’ criticism of his proposal to cut state income taxes by 10 percent.
“I laugh when I hear the response,” Christie said. “I am being lectured about fiscal responsibility. Now this is really hysterical.”
He said the state is stronger because of the line-item vetoes he made to reduce the budget last June, adding that to those who were calling him “fiscally irresponsible.”
Christie obliquely referred to the debate over same-sex marriage, saying that voters are most concerned with whether they have jobs, can pay bills and set aside savings. He said some legislators “want to play around with social issues, trying to make people look bad politically.”
Bracken said the chamber will be launching a feature on its website called “CR Squared” that will be dedicated to changes Christie is making in the state. He asked the governor “to keep us busy.”
The chamber president said a turnout of roughly 800 attendees after recent declines shows “business is alive and well in New Jersey,” adding: “We’re back.”
Chamber Chairman Jeffrey Scheininger, president of Flexline/U.S. Brass & Copper, asked all of the state’s elected officials to work together to improve the business climate.