As Gov. Chris Christie travels throughout the country to campaign for Republicans, including presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, state Democrats have said he should return his focus to New Jersey and its problems. Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), a possible contender for the 2013 gubernatorial race, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the Garden State is losing too many high-tech jobs to other states, unemployment is high and state revenues are down, which means Christie should stay home and address concerns.
“He needs to get back home and solve our economic woes here in New Jersey,” Buono said. “The governor is in way over his head when it comes to the economy here in New Jersey.”
She cited the loss of jobs, including Roche, which moved from New Jersey to the lower east side of Manhattan and two facilities in her own legislative district last week. Buono claims Christie is in denial about the struggling economy, projecting overinflated tax revenues coming into the state.
“Then when the Office of Legislative Services, our research arm, called him on it; when the non-partisan bond agencies called him on it, he questioned their credibility,” Buono said, adding Christie should have lowered his projections after they came in low for the months of March through August.
“Instead he started issuing mandates that he was going to fine anyone who released the revenue reports without his permission $10,000,” Buono said. “All of a sudden for the people of New Jersey, it’s top secret what our revenue situation is here.”
Christie has criticized Democrats, including Buono, of wanting money allocated for pet projects. Buono laughed and said Christie is just trying to distract attention from the real issues of losing high-tech jobs, having New Jersey rank 47th over the last two years in growth and that unemployment is at all time 35-year high.
“The governor’s got this reputation of telling it like it is. He really tells it like it isn’t. He just says it louder,” Buono said. “I advise the governor to spend less time picking fights with the legislature and spend more time here in New Jersey solving our problems and creating jobs. The fact of the matter is he thinks if he yells loud enough, calls enough names that people will forget that he’s got no long-term plan to create jobs in New Jersey.”
Hearings were held today about unemployment. Buono said members of the Department of Labor are dragging their feet when it comes to doling out unemployment benefits. To complicate the issue, Buono said Christie signed a law that created a new category where an individual who was laid off could be denied unemployment benefits completely. “This new category was very vague. It wasn’t defined,” she said. “So you could just sadly get laid off for just about anything and be prohibited from receiving unemployment benefits forever for this particular job.”
Buono said that clause still exists and people are having to wait two years for their appeals to be heard. “In that time, they can lose their house. There was one story today where a person went into foreclosure,” she said. “I mean they won the case. They’re winning the appeals two years later though. They should take less than six months.”
Buono has been called a probable candidate for governor next year, challenging Christie. She placed sixth in a poll released last week among the most recognizable and most favorable potential candidates. She didn’t seem phased by the placement.
“I’ve been actively considering running for governor,” she said. “And if I do decide I will make the case why I’m not just the best candidate to beat Chris Christie but how I would be the best candidate to address the grave fiscal and economic problems that are facing this state.”