POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Christie calls state’s economy a ‘success’

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

“It’s time for us to start writing the story of New Jersey’s economic success,” said Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie laid out a case today on jobs and the economy. The setting was a high-tech incubator off Route 1 in North Brunswick. The state EDA [Economic Development Authority] opened it in 2002. Now, 114 people are employed there in life science and biotechnology private sector start-ups.

A perfect place, the Governor’s Office figured, to tout the latest unemployment report.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics is announcing today that our unemployment rate will remain at a 16-year low of 4.1 percent,” Christie said.

The national rate is 4.4 percent. Christie painted a picture of New Jersey as booming more than any other state in the Northeast.

“There’s always this conversation about New Jersey and the region,” Christie said. “It continues to make me wonder what the agenda is when we continue to say that New Jersey lagged. That’s an old story. That’s a three-year-old story. And there’s no question that we lagged earlier, but we now exceed the entire region.”

Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and New York all have higher unemployment rates than New Jersey, according to Christie. Maryland and Massachusetts have rates closer to ours, and they have Republican governors, he noted.

“What I’d suggest to you is that Republican policies on the economy work and they are working, not just in our state but in some of our neighboring states,” said Christie. “But none of them are working better than they’re working here. We have more New Jerseyans employed today than at any time in the state’s history.”

He said public sector jobs have declined on his watch, so the growth is all in the private sector. It’s being fueled, he said, by a strong summer tourist season, a robust Transportation Trust Fund program and some tax cuts he insisted on last year.

“If I had told any of you in February 2010, ‘don’t worry, by the end of my term we’ll have the lowest unemployment rate in the region, we’ll have more employed than at any time in state history and we’ll be outperforming by independent measures any of the other economies in the region,’ you would have been very skeptical, and probably rightly so,” Christie said.

Gordon MacInnes has been observing New Jersey for decades as a state senator, and now is the president of liberal think tank, New Jersey Policy Perspective. He has a different view of the state economy.

“Well-laggered, way behind, words to characterize the numbers. If you think about what’s happened since the Great Recession, we’re 42 in the nation in terms of job growth. We are way behind New York, which has created two and a half times more jobs than it had when the Great Recession hit and we’re barely at the point of restoring 100 percent of those jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate may be higher, that’s one thing, but you have to look at who has jobs, here the jobs are, and when you look at that New York is attracting more people who are coming looking for jobs than New Jersey is. That probably explains why their unemployment rate is higher. We are settled in at a very sluggish rate in terms of job production and the kind of jobs we’re producing.”

At his event, Christie was questioned about a number of other subjects.

On being booed at a Mets game this week after catching a foul ball: “With the exception of George W. Bush after 9/11, I’ve never seen a politician cheered at a baseball game, or a football game, ever,” he said. “And I can tell you, I’ve been at a lot of NCAA games where they tend to put the camera on people in the audience and put it up on the screen, a lot of Notre Dame games with my daughter participating with that team, I pray everytime that they don’t put me on the screen. Because I know if they do, when I was at 75 percent they would have booed me, and now they’re going to boo me. It’s just the way it is. People go to sporting events to see athletes, not politicians. And despite the fact that I showed some athletic ability with that catch, they still don’t characterize me as an athlete.”

On Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ apparent fallout with President Trump and whether that office might become vacant: “I got to know Jeff really well and he’s a good man. He’s a good man. He’s a great public servant, and while I didn’t know him much before May 2016, I got to know him very well. We worked on every recommendation to the president together,” Christie said. “So I have great respect for Jeff and I don’t expect that there’s going to be any vacancy in the Attorney General’s Office.”

On whether Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno deserves some credit for the state economy as he sees it: “Absolutely the lieutenant governor should get some of the credit,” he said. “the lieutenant governor has made her focus on my request over the last seven and a half years improving the business climate in the state. And she has traveled to every county in the state, to every corner of the state to meet with businesses of every size in this state. She has been an advocate for less taxes, lower regulation and a better business environment in the state. And absolutely, as I’ve said at previous press conferences when someone asked me about this, probably the last time I talked about job numbers, the lieutenant governor deserves a share of the credit, absolutely.”

When NJTV News asked Christie if average New Jerseyans are feeling the boom he’s talking about, he said no because the press is always downplaying it.

“How else are people supposed to know about this unless you report it?” he asked. “And if people don’t know it, there’s one of two reasons either because I didn’t say it, or because you didn’t report it. Well, we know I’ve said it.”

Christie sounded a little like Donald Trump in his excoriation of the media. We’re not reporting the good news about New Jersey, just the negative.

“What do you think is more important to people? The fact that there’s more people at work in New Jersey than at any time in the state’s history, or some of the nonsense you guys report repetitively over and over again because you think it gets you click bait. I mean, you all know this. You all know when we talk privately, you all acknowledge this … The bad stuff gets reported and repeated, and repeated and repeated like 11 credit downgrades. But 4.1 unemployment, the lowest unemployment in the region, more in New Jersey employed at any time in the state’s history, lowest unemployment rate in 16 years, better performance than any of our neighboring states, you may report it today, but it won’t get repeated over and over again,” Christie said. “And so you want people to know about this, you want people to feel better about the state? Start reporting the good stuff.”

Christie seemed to enjoy getting a little of that off his chest.