Christie Commits Funds for Autism Programs & Services

Gov. Chris Christie toured the Somerset Hills Learning Center this morning, where children with autism get intensive training.

“Of all the places I visited as a candidate for governor in 2009, no place affected me more than this place,” he said.

It’s an impressive-looking facility, built with private donations. The staff is larger than the number of students, just 28 children from age 3 to 20. It’s paid for by a mix of public and private funding.

Christie went to the facility because it is autism awareness month, and because New Jersey’s rate of autism is 1 out of 50 children, one of the highest in the nation. Christie said there is $25 million in new funding in his fiscal 2013 budget to increase autism placements and services.

But at a news conference after his tour, the press took the focus elsewhere. The first question was about today’s call by the Manhattan Borough President to reinstate a commuter tax that would cost New Jersey residents who work in New York nearly a half percent of their income.

“It’s certainly not something we would be in favor of and I haven’t heard from Mayor Bloomberg about it so I don’t consider it to be anywhere near a serious idea until I hear from the mayor about it,” Christie said. “He and I have a good relationship. We talk regularly so I’m sure if it was something that was really on the front burner I’d hear it directly from him.”

He was also asked about a fresh complaint by the operator of the state’s only approved medical marijuana dispensary in Montclair that his temporary permit doesn’t give him the certainty he needs to get started.

“Ah, he’s always complaining about something. Three weeks ago he didn’t have the temporary permit and at the time he said, ‘All I need is the temporary permit so I can grow and get ready.’ I wish he would stop complaining,” Christie said. “We’re making progress, but I’m not gonna compromise the safety and the security of this program.”

Tomorrow, the governor will focus on homelessness prevention, on Thursday, developmental disabilities. But asked if there is a social service theme to the week, he said, not really. Reporting from Bedminster, Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron has this story.