Gov. Chris Christie went public today with a concern he says he’s been trying to resolve privately. The city of Newark has no budget for its fiscal year that ends in December and is asking the state for help, as it did last year.
“Our folks are in there now forcing budget cuts on the city of Newark and we’re gonna do that because I’m not happy about last year, having a $32 million loan turn into an $18 million surplus,” Christie said.
He said Mayor Cory Booker and the City Council are not cutting enough spending and that going public now has nothing to do with growing speculation that Booker might run for governor next year.
“There’s a problem. It’s October and I’m not assigning blame at the moment. I’m trying to solve the problem,” Christie said. “But there is a problem when you haven’t passed a budget for your calendar year and it’s Oct. 2.”
Mayor Booker today downplayed the matter.
“No, again, I just met with the governor face to face. I don’t know what you’re hearing, but we have a team working with the governor’s team,” Booker said. “Non-appropriated dollars is not the problem we’re having right now. Right now we’re slowly closing the budget deficit and actually making a tremendous amount of progress.”
“My job at the moment is to try to make sure the problem fixed because I don’t need New Jersey’s largest city in any more financial trouble than it’s in already,” Christie said.
The governor’s comments about Newark and its finances came at a visit to the Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center in Flemington. It was the second day in a row that he visited a health care facility with Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd.
He met patients receiving their chemotherapy. He has increased funding for cancer screening for those without either insurance or Medicaid by $3.5 million this year, to a total of $12 million. Yesterday’s visit highlighted a $12 million increase for federally qualified health centers.
“When I make a decision to increase funding in a budget for something, that’s kind of counter to what people expect from me, and I think I owe them an explanation for that,” Christie said.
Christie also addressed press speculation that he may be writing off the U.S. Senate candidacy of his friend Joe Kyrillos. He’s done six fundraisers for Kyrillos, he said, and will try to campaign with him four times before Election Day.
“I don’t know where they get the information from to write stuff like that. I have far from written that race off at all,” Christie said. “As you know, Michael, Joe is one of my closest friends, if not my closest friend, in Trenton, certainly my closest friend in the legislature. And so I haven’t written that race off at all.”
Kyrillos debates Bob Menendez on NJTV Thursday night.
Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron has the full story from Flemington.