By John Celock
Looks like the bromance between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and President Barack Obama is over.
Christie used a Tuesday afternoon press conference to blame tax policies enacted by Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress in 2012 for an $800 million budget shortfall in the state. The Christie Administration announced the shortfall Monday evening, sending state officials scrambling to find ways to plug the gap in the middle of budget hearings in the State Legislature.
“If you keep rates on the top taxpayers as high as you are keeping them people will change their behavior to avoid it,” Christie said during the press conference.
Christie’s comments are similar to ones made by the state Treasury Department to the Star-Ledger Monday night saying that higher taxes have led people to move money around and that state officials did not properly estimate the full amount of lost revenue. Christie insisted during the press conference that other states, citing Connecticut are facing similar issues.
Christie also took pains to defend the state Treasury Department, noting that the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services also miscalculated state revenue projections.
Christie’s remarks came during a press conference where he announced his nomination of former state Attorney General John Degnan (D) as the next chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Degnan would replace David Samson, another former state attorney general, who stepped down in the wake of the controversy surrounding the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge by Christie aides and allegations about Samson’s own business conflicts with the agency. Degnan served as attorney general under former Gov. Brendan Byrne (D) in the late 1970s and lost a bid for governor in 1981. He also held top executive positions with Chubb.
Christie said that Degnan’s government and business experience made him an attractive candidate for hold the Port Authority chairmanship. He also stressed that Degnan has the character to run the agency in the wake of the recent allegations.
“He is a person of high integrity,” Christie said. “If you talk to people of both parites not a bad word is said about John Degnan.”
Christie spent much of the press conference focused on Port Authority reform and defended his oversight of the bi-state transportation agency, including the decision to redirect funds to transportation projects in the Garden State. He also focused primarily on questions about the budget shortfall, and deflected questions on the bridge controversy and the investigations surrounding the lane closures.
The governor said he has not determined a plan of action to address the budget shortfall, noting that he needs time to review the entire budget and he hopes to work collaboratively with legislative leaders on a plan.
Christie indicated that if a lawmakers did not want to work with him, he would use his executive authority to make cuts, similar to a plan he implemented in February 2010, a month after taking office. During the 2010 cuts, Christie made cuts to education spending and local government aid, among other areas of the budget. Those cuts set the stage for more dramatic cuts he would propose weeks later as part of his first state budget proposal.
“The responsible way to go about this is to not put restrictions on a situation where there will be lots of different opinions. I will prioritize what I prioritize,” Christie said Tuesday. “I hope this will be a collaborative process. If not I will do what I need to do on my own like I did in 2010. First I have to look at what the options are.”