By David Cruz
If the audiences from the Gov. Chris Christie’s recent town halls are a genuine gauge, then Christie is as popular today as he was when he won reelection by 22 points in November. In Long Hill, in Morris County, the governor was again amongst friends, including former neighbors and even a friend of his late mother.
But not one question from this crowd about the bridge scandal that has been consuming the news cycle for almost two months. True, Christie won Morris County with 70 percent of the vote, but some of these people must use the GWB. Sen. Tom Kean Jr. says voters don’t see the bridge scandal they same way the media does.
“It looks like — in the polling just the other day, from Monmouth University — that 57 percent of the people in New Jersey think that the [bridge scandal] committee has gone off the rails a little bit and focused on a partisan agenda instead of real solutions and that’s because it’s made up of an eight to four partisan majority,” said Kean.
But the governor was taking his partisan shots today, too. In a town hall that was designed to promote his budget plan, Christie began by calling out Democratic lawmakers.
“I’ve had to veto four income tax increases that the Democratic legislature has sent me, and, you know, if they get a little crazy this year and try to send me another one, don’t worry, I’ve got the veto pen ready,” said Christie. “Don’t worry, your taxes are not going to go up at the state level while I’m governor. We’re not going to do it.”
The governor says Democrats are trying to fool voters when they say the state’s pension system is in good shape, which they did say yesterday in their response to the governor’s budget address.
“There was mismanagement over the years of the pension system and we all know that, but we fixed that when we did the pension and benefit overhaul,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said yesterday. “And employees are paying more and if we stay the course, the pension system will be fine.”
But the governor mocked that mindset today. “The pension system is still $52 billion under-funded. Now listen, I didn’t sit down and do this on a napkin. It’s $52 billion under-funded according to the actuaries that look at this. Does anyone here believe that you can have a $52 billion problem and do nothing?” he asked.
The governor’s next town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, again before what will likely be another friendly crowd in Ocean County, where he won 75 percent of the vote.
It’s likely that the governor would have faced a tougher line of questioning if he’d met with reporters, but it’s been almost 50 days since he’s done that. And judging by the way he blew past us after this event, it could be some time before we get another shot at him.