It’s almost unheard of — a former governor assailing a sitting governor. But that’s what Chris Christie did Wednesday.
“You know what, I’m tired of being quiet and I’m tired of being nice, and it’s contrary to my personality.”
At a breakfast hosted by the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, moderator Kevin McArdle asked Christie and former Govs. Jim McGreevey and Jim Florio how they’d rate current Gov. Phil Murphy on a scale of one to 10.
“I’m gonna resist giving a number because then all that will be reported is the number that I gave. Here’s what I’d say: It’s time to get to work. This job is hard. It’s hard, and governor’s soundbite has got to end and the campaign’s got to end. I mean, I’ve got your back, I’ll call balls and strikes, period full stop doesn’t govern anything,” said Christie.
“The reason that things aren’t moving through the Legislature, except for the very easiest things that are kind of boilerplate, Democratic ideas, the tough things aren’t being done because there are no relationships … I think that unfortunately we have a governor right now who thinks that being governor is like being a super-ambassador — that you cut ribbons, that you go to events, that you give away things, and that everyone is going to be nice to you as a result. This job is hard. It’s hard work. I never regretted a day of it, but I worked hard every day. And so did my staff. So, what I think is that it’s time to stop campaigning. You won … I can’t give a number. The best thing I could give is incomplete because I don’t think it’s even started yet. And to do it you got to work.”
Christie was also critical of Murphy’s handling of the Economic Development Authority. Tuesday night Murphy asked board chairman Larry Downes and four other Republican-appointed board members to resign.
Murphy maintains the authority has given out $11 billion in tax breaks since 2008 and needs to be reined in. Christie said it’s only given out $700 million since 1995 and that Murphy is lying.
“If you listen to the governor, you would believe that billions of dollars, just in my administration, were going out the door in tax incentives. This is a complete falsehood. Complete falsehood perpetrated by this administration to kill a program that they philosophically disagree with. But since they can’t win the philosophical argument — because Gov. Florio’s argument about what’s happened in Camden — in a Democratic, urban center shows that the program works. So, you can’t win the philosophical argument, so what you do is vilify and lie about the program,.
Christie said. “If you listen to the governor, you would think that we were giving out money and not getting anything in return. And he uses the comptroller’s report to back that up. The comptroller himself says not one project they’ve looked at failed the net benefit test … Larry Downes resigned under pressure from the governor’s office. If you read the governor’s statement today, he says nothing but the most laudatory things, that you would think he was giving Larry Downes the businessman of the year award by reading his quote today.
“Yet remember this, so I have to take the governor’s word that that’s what he believes about Larry Downes. And for those of you that know Larry, you probably believe it too … If the governor doesn’t believe in tax incentives, then come out and make the fiscal-policy case against tax incentives. Do not assassinate the character of people like Larry Downes … To resort last night, to only call the Republican commissioners, who voted the exact same way as the Democratic commissioners, and threaten them — and that’s what they did. I can tell you because I spoke to them. They threatened them and said there’s going to be bad stuff out there unless you quit now.”
Murphy’s spokesperson, Dan Bryan, put out a statement which read, in part, “It’s no surprise to see Gov. Christie defend a program that his own comptroller found ‘improperly awarded, miscalculated, overstaffed and overpaid’ tax credits … Clearly, in the Christie Administration, policy and fact-based analysis took a back seat to backroom political deals, which resulted in an economy that lagged behind in nearly every economic indicator …”
When he left office, Christie said he wouldn’t be commenting on every move Murphy makes. But Murphy has been highly critical of Christie’s tenure, and Wednesday was an opportunity for payback.
“It’s our tradition now to be critical of each other. And I sat by for 15 months and allowed the governor to do his thing, and every governor does that in the beginning. The first few months we all have to say we found an awful mess and we’re going to be the heroes to clean it up. OK, we all do it. McGreevey did it to Whitman, Florio did it to Kean, and I did it to Corzine, everybody does it. And by the way, there’s also a measure of truth to it because we each didn’t fix every problem so there is some mess we left for the next person to fix. But enough’s enough now.”