By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Gov. Chris Christie brought his wife with him to today’s town hall and referred to her often.
“We do this as a team. We’ve done it as a team ever since I decided to run six and a half years ago and we continue to do this as a team. It’s good to have my partner and my teammate with me today. So I’ll try not to be too nervous,” he said.
Once again, he made a strong pitch for a second round of pension reform.
“I’m never gonna appear on the ballot in this state again so I don’t have to worry about not telling you the complete truth. This is it. I wanna fix this problem on my watch. I wanna get it done. We started in 2011. We have to get it done now. If we do, we are giving an incredible gift to our children and grandchildren. If we don’t, we are gonna be the generation of New Jerseyans that they blame for the destruction and perhaps the bankruptcy of this state. I don’t want to be a part of that and I don’t think you do either,” Christie said.
After his signature jacket fling, the first question was about running for president.
“You had indicated that you were not going to be appearing on the ballot in the state of New Jersey. Will you run for the presidency and possibly appear that way?” asked Jerry Mersten, Whippany resident.
“Well that took long,” Christie said. “Well, we’re in the process of making that decision and I’ll make a decision by late spring, early summer on what I’m gonna do. It’s not an easy decision. It’s quite an undertaking and it’s a decision that I’ll ultimately make but my family has a lot to say about to in terms of whether they want me to go forward with that or not. So we’ll figure it out late spring, early summer. You know me. I’m not a wallflower. Once I make up my mind, I’ll let you all know.”
Observers have been waiting for an announcement.
“We’ll make that decision within the next three months or so. We’ll let everybody know when we do. But I’m proud of what we’re doing here right now and if that has some applications to the rest of the country and people tend to like that, then that might recommend us well for the next job. We’ll see what happens. But thanks for asking,” he said.
Christie wants to create a new, less expensive pension and health benefits system for public workers. The shop steward of the local public works said his department members think the state should fully fund its current pension obligation.
“We acknowledge you’re getting killed because of Sandy, a lot of different outside things beating you up but my guys asked me to ask you today so I hear it right from you so I can go back and answer the question to them, if your team put in place this plan to get us out of this, they want you to make the payment,” said Teamsters Local 97 Shop Steward for the Hanover Township DPW Brian McClain.
“Listen, we simply don’t have the money. And I told you what we need to get the money. So if folks want me to raise the sales tax to 10 percent, want me to raise the income tax on every working New Jerseyan by another 29 percent. And if you think what ultimately will happen will be that people won’t evacuate the state like their clothes are on fire, which will create an even bigger problem for us, that’s the only way you do it that way,” Christie said.
So Christie moved the timeline on his presidential decision today to late spring or early summer. Meanwhile he goes to Texas on Thursday to continue to beat the bushes, you might say.