And a second politician eyeing Chris Christie’s job has just announced he’s a candidate for governor. NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz was there for Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s announcement.
Cruz: Jack Ciattarelli is first out of the gate. Assemblyman, thanks for taking the time to be with us. You are first out of the gate. Are you trying to discourage anyone else from jumping in?
Ciattarelli: Not at all. Competition makes us better. But I believe in my candidacy. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. And there’s little time to waste.
Cruz: You have been critical of this governor, particularly, on several issues. Would you accept Chris Christie’s support in this primary?
Ciattarelli: I’m not seeking Chris Christie’s support. I’m going to take my message to the people. It’s their support I need.
Cruz: You have some of your potential opponents — Kim Guadagno, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick — he has been a great cheerleader and she has been silent as far as this administration goes. What does that say about either one of them?
Ciattarelli: I’m focused on Jack Ciattarelli’s candidacy. I really shouldn’t be doing this or asking my family to make these sacrifices if I didn’t think I was the best candidate.
Cruz: Is there a Christie legacy that this Republican Party will have to carry going forward in the next gubernatorial election?
Ciattarelli: Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we need to move on from the Christie era. Not just from a policy perspective but also the Republican Party from a political perspective.
Cruz: Explain that a little bit.
Ciattarelli: We need different kinds of policies and I think what makes me different is I’m very pragmatic in my conservatism and I’m not rigid in my ideology.
Cruz: We are in front of Manville High School. This is where you made your announcement just about an hour ago because education and specifically educational funding is going to be a key to your campaign, yeah?
Ciattarelli: The key to New Jersey’s future is solving the current school funding crisis. It holds the key to the property tax crisis. It holds the key to the teachers’ pension crisis and we need to solve it. Manville is one of the most disadvantaged school systems when it comes to state aid.
Cruz: You talked a little bit about how Jersey City and Hoboken, in fact you talked a lot about Jersey City and Hoboken during your speech about how they are benefiting unfairly from the current tax code.
Ciattarelli: We celebrate the revitalization that we’ve seen in places like Jersey City and Hoboken, but at the same time, no state aid was ever meant to be a subsidy in perpetuity. It’s time. Those school districts are over-funded. This school district in Manville is underfunded by $9 million. We need to change that.
Cruz: You are not necessarily a fan of the governor’s so-called fairness plan are you?
Ciattarelli: Well what’s good about what the governor is doing is he’s calling attention to what the number one crisis in New Jersey is — school funding. I think what the plan fails to do is take into account that not all communities have the same ability to pay and not all children — students — are the same in terms of their educational intensiveness.
Cruz: So how would your plan be different? Without getting into too many of the details. We only have about a minute and a half.
Ciattarelli: What would be different is we would expect their community to have a local fair share of at least 25 percent of the school budget. Some communities are only paying 2 cents on the dollar, 5 cents on the dollar, 10 cents on the dollar. And that any district that is currently over-funded, their aid is reduced over a five-year period. And that districts like Manville that are underfunded will be made whole within five years. That’s fair.
Cruz: How will you determine if someone is over-funded?
Ciattarelli: Oh, SFRA [School Funding Reform Act], the current law, already does that for us. We know for a fact that Hoboken is over-funded by $7.5 million. We know for a fact that this district is underfunded by $9 million. So when I say underfunded and over-funded, I’m not even talking about the right, the left or think tanks. I’m talking about the current law.
Cruz: I have about a minute. I’m going to give you some lightning questions here. You can give me really short answers. Casinos in the north of New Jersey?
Ciattarelli: Yes, but under the right circumstances. Right now there’s too much ambiguity in the ballot question.
Cruz: Pension payment mandate?
Ciattarelli: No, that should not be built into the state constitution. That should be solved by the Legislature. My plan solves it.
Cruz: We should say that the public question is going to require whoever the next governor is to make quarterly payments.
Ciattarelli: We need to stop tinkering with our constitution. This is what you elect a Legislature for. Let’s solve it.
Cruz: The TTF deal that was announced on Friday?
Ciattarelli: Bad for New Jersey. Only in New Jersey does a gas tax end up in the same conversation with the estate tax. This is an irresponsible plan that doesn’t balance the ledger.
Cruz: All right. Jack Ciattarelli, first out of the gate for the Republicans seeking the nomination for governor.