Christie talks economy and more at press conference

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

Gov. Chris Christie called the press together to tout last week’s unemployment rate — 4.1 percent, down from 9.8 percent when he took office.

“This has taken time, this has taken time for a few reasons. New Jersey was in worse shape when we took it over than any of our neighboring states because of our past policies. Remember this is the state that grew no jobs, no private sector jobs in the 2001 to 2009 period,” said Christie. “Zero net private sector job growth. You will not find that in any other of our neighboring states.”

Christie wants the public to believe he’s been a good steward of the economy. The hashtag on his charts today said #BetterThanWeFoundIt. He warned that the Democrats running for governor have a knee-jerk desire to bring back some old taxes.

“They want to go back to those failed old policies. They are teeing them up for you right now: corporate business tax increase, income tax increase, sales tax increase, talking about the eliminating of the estate tax. All of these things are things are things which have led to this growth. And if you talk at all to all to any of the folks in the major investment houses, what they will tell you is that already their high net worth individuals are exploring staying in New Jersey, as opposed to leaving, especially because of the elimination of the estate tax,” he said.

The governor took questions today for an hour. He was asked about the Republican gubernatorial candidates and Jack Ciatterelli’s claim that Kim Guadagno had nothing to do with the state’s job growth.

“I would say that Mr. Ciatterelli is wrong about that, if I were to be called in as a fact checker on that one,” Christie said. “It’s hard sometimes from the back bench of the Assembly to see what’s going on, so maybe Jack just missed it from the back bench there. But the fact is that the lieutenant governor deserves credit for a lot of what’s happened here.”

That’s not an endorsement, he said, adding he is officially neutral.

He was asked about former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. When Christie led the Trump transition team he recommended against hiring Flynn.

“I think it’s safe to say that Gen. Flynn and I didn’t see eye to eye,” said Christie.

Pressed for more detail, he held back, except for this.

“You do the best you can to make recommendations to our president elect, and in that contact I did. But I would just say this to you: if I were president elect of the United States, I wouldn’t let Gen. Flynn in the White House,” he said.

And he was asked about his $300 million State House renovation project and press reports that it should only cost $38 million.

“The idea that we’d spent $38 million on emergency repairs that are literally band aids that will fall off in a year or two. We have been doing that over, and over, and over again because nobody has the political guts to say to people, ‘We have to spend this money for this building. So sorry, but we have to do it.’ And the folks who are opposing this now, and you know this, let me guarantee you how much this noise will go down after primary day,” said Christie.

And what about last week’s bond approval and bond sale all in one day?

“That’s efficient government, baby, efficient government. If you are going to do the job, get it done the right way,” he said. “Of course fair and appropriate, it was approved 11-0 by the EDA. What do I have to do? Wait for mother may I after that? Wait for Ray Lesniak’s permission. Believe me, if I waited for Ray Lesniak’s permission on anything around here we would get nothing done for eight years because he would just still be talking.”

Christie said the 4-year renovation is forcing him out of his office this Friday.