BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Christie Castigates Business Leaders at NJBIA Confab

By David Cruz
Correspondent

“It’s time to get a spine,” said the governor.

Chris Christie said he wasn’t expecting a standing ovation on the way out of the ballroom at the Holiday Inn in East Windsor today, and with the tone of his talk before the NJ Business and Industry Association, there was no danger of that. Here’s the governor on the role the state’s business community has been playing politically.

“Are you gonna stop playing both sides against the middle, and playing footsie and think that every once in a while a couple of crumbs are gonna fall off the table and maybe you’ll get something,” he reprimanded the audience of business leaders. “It’s an embarrassment that the minimum wage is in our constitution. By the way, you let it happen. Every one of you in this room. You let it happen. You did nothing to stop it. I vetoed it; he sustained the vetoes and Jon sustained the vetoes and then they went to the ballot and when we need the business community to stand up and put the money behind educating the public about how bad this public policy is, you don’t do it.”

And it didn’t get much better than that. After some lively panel discussions, including one wherein legislative leaders said that a deal on the Transportation Trust Fund was moving into high gear, business leaders appeared to be feeling pretty good. They had some decent news on job creation and growth and thought maybe their old friend came by for a pep talk. Instead:

“Time to wake up,” he admonished. “That’s why I’m here today. It’s wake up time. You want to give in? Give in. I got two years left, at the most. And I’ll tell you this. You all have some choices to make. And for those who continue to play both sides to the middle, you’re gonna get what you deserve.”

This was Governor Christie, not presidential candidate Christie. No references to New Hampshire or Donald Trump or terrorism. Christie’s focus today was on Senate president Steve Sweeney’s proposal to constitutionally mandate pension payments.

“I want you to understand what this will mean. A $3 billion tax increase on 90 percent of the state to benefit his political patrons who amount to 10 percent of the state,” he warned. “Now, if this is the kind of state you wanna live in, then get ready because the payoff for the tens of millions of dollars that the public sector labor unions have donated to the Assembly and Senate Democrats is coming, right down Broadway, right now. They bought and paid for this legislature.”

And you let it happen, said Christie. It was a sober appetizer before the lunch break, but food for thought said NJBIA CEO Michele Siekerka.

“You know what, I think people are talking,” she said. “I think people are sitting and they’re saying “what do we do with that?” And we’ve asked ourselves how do you deal with the issue of money in elections these days, with the rules of pay to play. And what businesses are subject to, whereas others are not.”

So, how did that tough talk go over? We got mostly “no comments” but one attendee told us – off camera – it’s one thing to make that speech, but it’s quite another to make that speech and then leave the room.