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Christie Pushes Middle-Class Reform at Morris County Town Hall Meeting

Governor answers questions from Montville residents regarding Susquehanna-Roseland project, sequestration.

Gov. Chris Christie addressed a room of more than 800 people at the Pine Brook Jewish Center in Montville Wednesday, speaking largely about local issues in the context of his Middle-Class Reform Agenda.

Christie began by telling the audience that he was pleased to be hosting his 101st town hall meeting, the first he's done in six weeks, in his home county of Morris. He said he even got to sleep in as his wife, Mary Pat, asked why he wasn't getting up.

"My first bit of business is in Montville at 10:30. Amen," Christie said he told his wife.

While the bulk of Christie's remarks regarded reform he would like to see throughout the state, including an end to sick time payouts, a strict adherence of municipalities to 2 percent spending caps and the necessity of shared services, he focused his energy on what the agenda means on the local level. The governor said municipal leaders, or, "crafty mayors," as he called them, have gotten in the habit of imposing "user fees" as a way to bring in money beyond the 2 percent spending cap that determines what municipalities can collect from residents in taxes.

"You can call it whatever you want — it's gotta fit under the cap," he said.

Christie reflected on a property tax growth cap imposed by former Gov. Jon Corzine's administration — a 4 percent cap with 23 exceptions, he said. Under the Christie administration's growth cap, only four exceptions are allowed to fall beyond the 2 percent: pension costs, health insurance costs, a municipality's debt and costs associated with state-declared emergencies, such as superstorm Sandy.

In 2011, Christie said, his administration also took a closer look at two of the exceptions, pension costs and health care reform, including by increasing the retirement age and the penalties associated with retiring early.

This year, Christie said he will continue what he has started in chipping away at debt across the state. This will be done, he said, with help from the 2 percent cap. At the same time, the governor expressed confidence that his Middle-Class Reform Agenda will help taxpayers individually feel relief.

"What we need to do is make sure that we stop this craziness of paying people for not being sick," Christie said of ending accumulated sick time payouts.

He first blasted the mayor of Atlantic City, calling the city one of "the most bankrupt, ridiculous municipal governments in America." He noted Mayor Lorenzo Langford's recent $16,000 raise (which Christie said the mayor voted for himself) and said that as 15 public employees have recently retired in Atlantic City, the total dollar amount in sick time payouts is "$2.2 million of taxpayer, property tax dollars." 

"We've had towns that have literally had to borrow, they’ve had to take out bonds to pay these jokers off," he said.

This scenario is also happening closer to home and right in Morris County, according to Christie.

"Parsippany's been victim to this too. They had four police officers retiring at the same time. They have checks totaling $900,000 for the four of them," he said.

Instead of paying retirees for sick time, the governor said he'd like to allow colleagues to donate their own unused sick time to those who are in need, have fallen ill and used up all of their existing time, for example.

"We're people with heart, so if you have extra sick days and... if you want to donate your sick days to them, that’s fine," he said.

He also poked fun at the current system in place.

"We should have a little party down at town hall [for retirees], in Parsippany for example. Every person who lives in Parsippany gets to come in with their check for their share of the money. At least then you’d get a 'thank you,'" he said. "The fact is, it would be funny if it weren’t true."

As for shared services, he used the town he lives in, Mendham, as an example of where resources can be pooled.

"Where I live, in Mendham Township, I am a mile and a quarter closer to the Mendham Borough Police Department than I am to the Mendham Township Police Department. If I call for police assistance, the borough should come because, hell, they’ll get there two minutes closer, right? No," he said.

He asked why one department could not just be formed-the Mendham Police Department. But when the issue was raised in the town, he said it was rejected and to taxpayers in Morris and other counties, lack of shared services add up.

"Every one of these add expense to you," he said.

In regards to a question raised by Montville resident Jen Kayne about where the governor stands on the development of the Susquehanna-Roseland power line project, which runs through 45 miles of the state, including through Montville, Kinnelon, Jefferson, Hopatcong, Boonton and Rockaway, Christie acknowledged residents' concerns but also explained that something needed to be done in response to one of the biggest issues raised following both Tropical Storm Irene and superstorm Sandy.

"The biggest complaint from everybody was what? 'When's my power coming back on?' he said. "You've got to make the infrastructure that delivers the power stronger, bigger, harder to sustain the type of storms that we're now seeming to get on a regular basis," he said.

Christie also touched on a few federal issues, including the looming sequestration deadline approaching Friday. Christie accused President Barack Obama of being "stuck in his ways" and said there is no excuse for fighting on the issue.

"We have to find ways to compromise," he said.

M. Justicel March 01, 2013 at 12:59 PM
The problem for any politician is "Truth." Christie is a bully plain and simple! He has New Jersey covered in wool believing a specific group of people are the cause and direct problem for the financial disaster we supposedly in. This problem was created back when Whitman was governor and every single governor since then has been part of the problem. I have yet to see one of Christie's promises come true. He was so appalled about a doctor being concerned for his health that he had to attack her back on television. What message does he send our children in New Jersey when he bully's his way around the state on television and in print. Wake up New Jersey, he's not the messiah many think he is. When the smoke settles we will be no better off.
reg March 01, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Right on! If Obama had been in the White House instead of running around the country on his never ending campaign tour scaring the citizens to death about the sequester, he might have had some time to actually sit down with Congress and work out a budget reduction plan. He wanted the sequester and he got his wish. Be careful what you wish for!
Henry Krinkle March 01, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Good points, M. Justice! But are we not already worse off since he has been in office? Whitman started NJ's decline for certain...she was a disgrace.
Dan Grant March 02, 2013 at 09:00 PM
To be fair he wasn't a bully in Montville. Of course he had the crowd he wanted so he didn't need to be tough. There is alot about his policies I don't like and he plays on the resentment of public employees that he helped to create but he was entertaining. His attack on sick days shows a complete lack of understanding about their purpose and the increase in overtime that the elimination of them would create but then he doesn't know much about the requirements of 24/7/365 day operations. I will say that he did put NJ first when he met with the President. That is his job but he took the Conservative Haters head on and deserves the credit for that.
reg March 03, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Sick days should be taken for paid for in the year they are accumulated. Let the worker save his own money for a "rainy day" in the future. A typical public service worker is employed for 15-20 years. His starting salary is significantly lower than the salary he retires at. If he starts at $10.00 per hour, a sick day is worth $80.00. If he retires at $25.00 per hour, a sick day is now worth $200.00 And so we have the "boat check".

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