Christie’s ‘No Taxes’ Pledge Has Implications in New Jersey

Matt Katz | August 13, 2015 | Katz on Christie

Gov. Chris Christie signed a pledge this week with a conservative group to never raise taxes — and he slammed fellow GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush for not doing the same thing. 

This is a reversal from three years ago, when he dismissed the pledge from conservative activist Grover Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, as a gimmick. “I made a pledge to the people of the state not to,” Christie said at the time. “I don’t need to make a pledge to anybody else.”

This week, though, Christie’s tune changed, and he told a radio interviewer that Bush should sign the pledge. “I wonder why Governor Bush won’t sign the pledge,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. If your record is consistent with that, and your philosophy is consistent with that, which mine is, I saw no problem with that.”

This move to the right could complicate efforts by New Jersey legislators to save the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road and bridge repairs in the state. The fund is paid for by the gasoline tax, which is the second lowest in the nation. Christie’s own allies — including the head of the state Chamber of Commerce and his transportation commissioner — have indicated support for increasing the state gas tax to replenish the trust fund. 

Christie will have to figure out a way to pay for the roadway repairs by next year. If Christie is still in the presidential race then — he is currently struggling in the polls, and didn’t see a bounce from last week’s debate — New Jersey’s aging infrastructure could become a key political problem.

Christie’s record on taxes is mixed. He has cut business taxes and vetoed Democratic bills to increase the income tax rate on high-income earners. But property taxes levied by towns have steadily gone up during his term, despite tax control measures like a 2 percent cap, and he rolled back rebates, which amounted to a tax increase for some New Jerseyans.