On the day a Senate committee is considering a same-sex marriage bill, Gov. Chris Christie called for the Legislature to put on the fall ballot a voter referendum on whether to legalize gay marriage. Democrats have made legalizing same-sex marriage a priority. In an interview she gave today with Managing Editor Mike Schneider, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver says Christie “sees the handwriting on the wall,” suggesting the majority of New Jerseyans support gay marriage. But she thinks that the Governor’s call for a referendum on the issue is a way of sidestepping a tough decision. She compared the right of same-sex couples to marry to the civil rights laws of the 1960’s, which she says, “certainly would not have stood up to muster if they were put on a ballot for referendum.”
In the first of a two-part interview, Speaker Oliver touched on other topics such as Christie’s proposed tax cuts, his Supreme Court nominees and raising the minimum wage.
She said she smiled when the Governor announced his nominations for Supreme Court justices. By nominating an openly-gay African-American and an Asian-American, she says Christie is responding to critics who have been pushing for more diversity on what had become an all-white court. In 2010, for the first time in the history of the modern court, Christie denied tenure to a Supreme Court justice, John Wallace, who is African-American.
She also added that Gov. Christie appears to have an “open mind” about the Democrats’ push to raise the minimum wage. According to Oliver, the Governor is “sensitive to criticism that he cannot understand the plight of working class people in this state.”
When asked about Christie’s proposed income tax cuts, Oliver says the Governor is targeting the wrong kind of taxes. The most regressive tax in the state, she says, is property tax. Christie’s 10 percent income tax cut is “negligible” and “not enough” for the working class, says Oliver.
On her relationship with Gov. Christie, she says that while he has called her a “few choice things,” she doesn’t take it personally as it comes with the turf.
NJToday will have more of Sheila Oliver’s interview tonight at 6, 7:30 and 11 pm.