It is a shopping list on steroids.
A million dollars for a grant program to put kitchens in licensed child care centers.
Half a million bucks for summer enrichment programs for New Brunswick schools.
Another half-million for the Yellow Dot program, which would help emergency workers find critical health care information at car accident scenes.
Sixty-six million for payments in lieu of taxes to towns “overburdened by cemeteries.”
Along with programs on responsible fatherhood, retirement community studies and 20 bills through committee but not yet passed, it amounts to a giant, unfunded pile of government spending, Gov. Chris Christie said in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey Thursday, and all of it stands in the way of his push for a $250 million tax cut.
“I thought we didn’t have any money to cut your taxes,” Christie said from the podium at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, as he scrolled through the list of bills on his smartphone. “They just can’t help themselves.”
The governor spent most of his 40-minute speech contrasting his efforts to impose fiscal responsibility on what he called “the circus in Trenton” to the Democrats’ record, harping on 115 tax and fee increases between 2002 and 2009 and their proposed budgets since, which exceeded state revenues.
While he vowed to use “a big, fat red veto” on any tax increase proposals from his foes across the aisle, Christie exhorted the hundreds of business leaders and owners gathered at the conference center to take action against the Democrats.
Painting a dire picture of “airplane grandparents” forced to travel out-of-state to see the next generation grow up, the governor said more needs to be done to ensure families can stay in the state, and not be priced out by high taxes or lack of opportunities.
“We need to call these people out,” Christie said. “For some reason, these guys don’t understand this. [Tax increases are] not happening -- not under any circumstances.”
But Democrats are unable to grasp that, the governor said, making a joking reference to his mother’s nonexistent money tree in how majority legislators act when it comes to balancing spending and revenues.
“There is a guardian at the gate, and you put me there,” he said. “It’s time to start saying no.”
While there wasn’t any mention of the Jersey Comeback, a slogan the governor touted in a visit to Haddonfield this summer, Christie still pointed to what he said are successes. He highlighted the addition of 90,000 jobs in his tenure as governor, and said the goal is to erase the 117,000 jobs lost under former Democratic governor John Corzine, part of what Christie called a “jobless decade” under Democratic rule.
Christie did not, however, address New Jersey’s unemployment rate—currently the fourth-highest in the nation, at a seasonally-adjusted 9.8 percent. That amounts to an increase of nearly a full percentage point since March, though down slightly from August’s high of 9.9 percent.