Chris Christie’s made Donald Trump’s vice presidential short list. But the governor’s gaze is squarely on matters of state. New Jersey’s business tax breaks, a looming municipal bankruptcy and the Trump transition team. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron is following it all and spoke to Anchor Mary Alice Williams from West Trenton.
Williams: Hi Michael.
Aron: Hello Mary Alice. We’re outside New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group in West Trenton where the governor held a 3:30 event this afternoon and touched on all three of those subjects that you just mentioned. Let’s start with the reason for his coming here, which was to announce a business tax cut. According to Christie, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund had a $2 billion deficit when he took office. Thanks to a number of anti-fraud measures taken by the Department of Labor, it’s now a $1.8 billion surplus. That means the governor can give a tax break to businesses who pay the unemployment insurance tax. Here’s a little of what he had to say:
Christie: Today I’m pleased to announce that the growing health and solvency of our trust fund, which now has a positive balance of $1.8 billion will allow for yet another tax cut to be realized by our employers. We had announced just a few weeks ago a $200 million tax cut effective July 1. We’re now announcing that we will increase that tax cut on July 1 by another $180 million making for a total tax cut of $380 million for our employers as of July 1.
Aron: Christie said that’s the largest unemployment insurance tax cut in state history and should save employers about $100 per employee on their taxes every year. The governor turned his attention to Atlantic City when he took questions from the press corps. The Atlantic City stalemate just goes on and on. Nothing happened today. Today was the day that Speaker [Vincent] Prieto had said he would call the Assembly back and try to pass some new compromise bill. That did not happen. There were not even meetings between the speaker and members of his caucus today. It’s another day of stalemate. It’s another day of frustration for the mayor, for Speaker Prieto, for Senate President Steve Sweeney and for the governor who is continuing to place most of the blame on Prieto.
Christie: I want to save Atlantic City. So does the Senate president. I would hope that the speaker would too. But if he’s going to force Atlantic City to bankruptcy, that’s going to be his call. I’ve done my job. I’ve said what I’d sign. And, by the way, when Sen. Sweeney and Assemblyman [Lou] Greenwald came out with a compromise, I said I’d be willing to look at it. But that wasn’t good enough either. The only person who’s not come to the table with anything, the reason he doesn’t have a seat at the table? You got to bring something to the table. What’s he brought, except defiance? So, I want to save Atlantic City, the Senate president wants to save Atlantic City and I think a majority of the state Legislature wants to. But speaker is bringing nothing to the table. Once again today he comes with nothing. Promised a vote today. He was going to get this thing passed. He didn’t, again. So what’s next now, Mr. Speaker? He can send out as many press releases as he wants blaming me but if I don’t have anything on my desk to sign, and he can’t point me to the inherent authority he says I have, well what am I supposed to do?
Aron: Now Speaker Prieto put out a statement after that, just within the past hour saying, “The governor’s rhetoric is boring, tired and unproductive and his refusal to act or compromise is putting Atlantic City at risk. The governor can preen all he wants but while he does so, the Assembly continues working toward a compromise. This is very simple. Anyone who wants legislation to help Atlantic City better get the Assembly on board.” So it’s trading barbs all over again as they’ve been doing for days and days now. On the subject of Donald Trump, it was the press’ first chance to ask Christie how he felt about being named chairman of the Trump transition team and we also asked him about the time that might consume.
Christie: I’m honored to be asked by Donald to have the responsibility of putting together a plan that will carry his first 200 days in office and a plan that will help him to populate the 4,000 federal jobs he’ll need to fill in a relatively short order if he were to become president. That’s not something, none of that stuff can be done in 75 days between the election and the inaugural. And so we’re going to begin work earnestly now that the announcement’s been made and I’ve been asked. Listen, in terms of time, the fact is that in the beginning, there will be some decent time for me to put a good team together. But as some of you may know about presidential transitions, the chairman’s running the show and I will do that and I will make the major decisions that need to be made, of course in consultation with the candidate. But in the end, a lot of the work will be done by men and women who will volunteer their time as traditionally has happened across the country to bring their expertise to bear on all the different issues that a new president would have to confront. So I can’t give you an exact amount of time, Michael, but I’ve always been able to manage my time pretty well and I don’t think it will take me out of state much at all. Maybe to Washington D.C. every once in a while.
Aron: And Christie was asked whether becoming transition chair lessens his chances of being Trump’s running mate. He said that’s up to Donald, but he sounded like he wouldn’t mind. I’m Michael Aron. Mary Alice, back to you.
Williams: Thank you Michael.