By David Cruz
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce wanted to make sure that Gov. Chris Christie was available for the rescheduled Walk to Washington in order to deliver the keynote at this week’s event. In front of a pro-business audience, the governor delivered the message he has been pounding on for weeks now, that the Assembly’s failure to renew caps on arbitration awards to public employees threatens to blow up the state’s economy.
“If we don’t pass this cap, let me tell you what will happen. One of two choices will have to made by mayors, freeholders, county executives all across this state. Either to go to the ballot to ask for permission of the voters to raise taxes above 2 percent. And in the alternative, if the voters refuse to approve raising taxes beyond the 2 percent, the only alternative left is broad and massive layoffs and cuts of services,” Christie said.
And it didn’t get much cheerier than that. It was cold water in the face of an audience that had, to that point, been having a barrel of laughs. But, perhaps aware of the national audience watching on C-SPAN, the governor appeared intent on showing that he is a strong leader — doing his job in tough times. Like a president might be required to do.
“This is an enormous challenge that we confront, but the opportunity is to make New Jersey — both actually and symbolically — an example of civic-mindedness, self sacrifice and American greatness, that can lead an example for our entire country,” Christie said.
C-SPAN had likely cut away by the time retiring Congressman Rush Holt rose to speak, but his spirited — for Holt, anyway — defense of the role of government, that it should invest in programs to help people and worry less about tax cuts, played about as well as Christie’s sober reality check.
“So we should be talking about the efforts of this government, the federal government to maintain and increase the minimum wage. I know some of you are murmuring this is not a Chamber of Commerce speech. Just the facts here. I’m not being confrontational. I’m not being combative,” Holt said.
The chamber event — which organizers say drew around 900 participants — closed this morning with the return of the live reporters’ roundtable, hosted by NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron.
After two days of talking politics and business, the volume level in the train cars has gone considerably lower as participants go from networking to working on a nap.