NJ governor-elect: Expect no fiscal miracles

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2009 3:52 PM

New Jersey's incoming and outgoing governors told municipal officials Thursday that there are no miracles to cure the state's vexing fiscal problems.

Gov.-elect Chris Christie, who is preparing to take office in January, predicted a period of continued pain, sacrifice and difficulty. He campaigned on a promise of delivering property tax relief and cutting government spending.

"If you came here today expecting me to announce some kind of miracle or great news, now is the time to hit the exits," Christie told about 450 municipal and state officials in Atlantic City for the League of Municipalities convention this week.

Gov. Jon Corzine, who lost his re-election bid this month as the state's economy continued to sputter, said fiscal conditions will not improve unless politically risky choices are made.

In what was probably the last big speech of his political career, Corzine said the only two options for dealing with New Jersey's chronic budget deficit, unfunded pension liabilities and other rising costs is to cut spending by reducing services _ or raising taxes.

"Bold and unpopular actions are the only way to deal with these issues," said Corzine.

Christie has said he will not raise taxes his first year in office, and he's also promised to allow an income tax surcharge on those earning more than $400,000 a year to expire July 1.

Christie said Thursday that the state's fiscal policies for too long have been based on selfishness and self-interest.

"The people of the state of New Jersey will no longer stand for us asking, 'What's in it for me?'" Christie said. "We have to start asking, 'What's in it for us?'"

He identified three problems that "won't wait" for action: instilling financial responsibility, providing property tax relief and reforming urban education.

The event marked the governor and governor-elect's first joint speaking engagement since the Nov. 3 election, which Christie won by about 100,000 votes. Christie and Corzine appeared together at a Mass for police officers last week in Newark, and later met behind closed doors, but neither addressed the crowd.

On Thursday, the men complimented each other for helping ensure a smooth transition of power.

Corzine wished Christie luck and said he would be "cheering from the sidelines."

"I say this from the bottom of my heart, serving the people of this great state as governor is the highest honor of my life," Corzine said, choking back tears.