BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Christie Discusses Debate Date at Bill Signing for Economic Opportunity Act

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

Gov. Chris Christie says he has no problem with the date of the second gubernatorial debate.

“The sponsors tell me what dates, I show up. I did it four years ago, I’ll do it this time,” he said.

Barbara Buono has objected to holding it the night before the Booker-Lonegan U.S. Senate election and tried unsuccessfully to get it moved.

In his first comments on the debate flap, Christie dismissed that idea.

“What are people doing the night before an election that prevents them from watching the debate exactly? Are they sitting there in kind of a zen state, meditating over whether they’re gonna vote for Steve Lonegan or Cory Booker? I mean, what’s the implication? It’s like any other night. What if we did it the night after and a whole bunch of people are drunk because they’re so happy about who won?” Christie asked.

Christie’s comments came at a bill-signing ceremony for the Economic Opportunity Act.

The new law collapses five existing business tax incentive programs into two and lowers the threshold for participation so that small businesses can get state help, as well as large ones.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. We’re competing with other states every day for the economic pie here in the United States and around the world and we need to make ourselves more competitive,” Christie said.

The governor was joined by legislative leaders of both parties.

“Jobs aren’t Republican or Democrat, they’re jobs. And people in this state need jobs,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The bill aims to steer businesses into the state’s poorest cities.

“You’d go to where Donald represents in Camden. Some of the thresholds we had in some of the earlier legislation you just wouldn’t have a development project of that size happen in Camden,” said Christie.

“There is something in this legislation that will help family-owned businesses in this state, small-medium sized businesses, businesses that want to come into New Jersey,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

The leading critic of tax incentives has been New Jersey Policy Perspective, a group Christie does not value.

“I really don’t care what Policy Perspective thinks. These are the architects of the failed Corzine administration economic policy so the Corzine think tank moved from here to Policy Perspective,” Christie said.

And he defended his new TV ad accusing Buono of voting to raise the pay of legislators in 2000, even as it raised the pay of governors.

“All I’m asking and all our campaign is asking is for Sen. Buono to take responsibility for her vote. If she doesn’t think it’s a bad thing, let her come out with an ad saying it’s a good thing. She raised her own pay 40 percent while she was voting 154 times to raise taxes on the people in New Jersey,” Christie said.

Asked to respond to Buono accusing him of allowing his national ambitions to affect his decision-making here, he said she’s more worried about 2016 than he is.