By Desiree Taylor
It’s going to be a tough 25 days. That’s what Gov. Chris Christie said at a town hall meeting in Piscataway today. He was talking about the ongoing battle over his budget proposal and the fact that the legislature has just 25 days left to approve it. Christie also wants to get a host of reforms approved by then, including merit pay for teachers, tenure reform and sick pay. He called the latter “boat checks” because he said some public employees who get paid for unused sick days use that money to buy a boat when they retire. “We need to end sick pay,” said Christie. “Do it now.” This drew an applause from the audience made up of mostly Republicans, Independents and unaffiliated voters.
Christie is still pushing his 10 percent income tax cut proposal even though revenue collections are below estimates. “It’s important to have a tax cut,” said Christie. “You deserve it.”
During the question and answer period, the governor reiterated his support for legalizing sports betting. But he said there will likely be legal roadblocks. When he was asked about New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, he assured the audience that regulations are tight. The topic also prompted him to clear the air about one man’s concern. “You won’t see me legalizing marijuana,” said Christie.
But Christie does want mandatory drug treatment for non-violent offenders. He believes it makes moral and fiscal sense. To prove his point, he noted that it cost $49,000 to incarcerate an offender, but about half that amount for treatment.
One noticeable change at this town hall meeting is there were empty seats. But there were a few Democrats in the audience including one woman who told the governor she doesn’t always agree with him but she thinks he’s doing a good job.