Hot topics for Wednesday’s ‘Ask The Governor’ with Chris Christie
It’s been just three weeks since Gov. Chris Christie last did “Ask The Governor,” yet quite a bit has happened between then and tonight’s visit to New Jersey 101.5 for the April installment of the series.
Christie reached a deal on filling a Supreme Court seat that has been vacant for six years, selecting Democrat and longtime friend Walter Timpone for the opening. He allocated $10 million more toward lead remediation. His administration tweaked some gun rules to make carry permits easier to obtain, among other changes. His chief of staff and communications director are both leaving for the private sector.
Yet despite those bits of news, the dominant political issues of this day remain similar to those atop the list a month, three months or even longer ago than that – Atlantic City, the Transportation Trust Fund and the presidential race.
“Ask The Governor” is hosted by Eric Scott. Tune in at 7 p.m. or come to NJ1015.com and watch the program live.
The governor will be taking your calls at 800-283-1015 — but the phone lines fill up quickly. More ways to to get your question heard:
• Join in our live chat at NJ1015.com — The chat will open up at 6:30 p.m.
• Tweet your questions to @NJ1015 using the hashtag #AskGov during or ahead of the show. Selected Tweets will be featured on NJ1015.com as well.
• Ahead of the program, leave your questions in the comments section below.
ATLANTIC CITY. Atlantic City’s day of reckoning had been expected to arrive 12 days ago, when city offices nearly closed for three weeks as the city ran out of money. But unions agreed to delay their paychecks to once a month, pushing off the city’s gone-broke date until late May or early June.
The temperature of the political battle also seems to have simmered down a bit. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who wants changes to the Atlantic City takeover legislation passed by the Senate, was able to pass his alternative – which delays the most disruptive interventions to give city officials more time to right their ship – though a committee, twice, unanimously, despite Christie’s opposition.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he’d change his bill to give the city around four months, though not the one or two years of missed targets Prieto envisions. The legislative leaders are due to talk about a compromise this week. Christie says he’d prefer the original plan but would consider a Democratic consensus.
One possible reason for the hardline stance softening: Moody’s Investors Service said two weeks ago that a distressed exchange, in which bondholders agree to restructure a debt that amounts to a diminished financial obligation, is a form of default. Christie has said he would have bondholders share in the Atlantic City sacrifice. A default would hurt the credit of other New Jersey municipalities.
A lawsuit filed by Christie’s Department of Education seeking to force Atlantic City to make immediate payments of aid to the city’s school district ended with a denial by a Superior Court judge. Now, Atlantic City is suing the state for the $33.5 million in aid it put into its budget, with the state’s consent, expecting it would be received. Christie vetoed the payment twice, most recently in January.
TRANSPORTATION TRUST FUND. It’s now 10 weeks until the end of the fiscal year, which is when the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is used to pay for road and rail projects, is tapped out – unable to borrow for more work, having to put all the money it receives toward paying off past borrowing.
Christie's acting transportation commissioner says he’s confident a deal will be reached by the governor and lawmakers. Christie says it’s up to lawmakers to propose a plan, which seems to presume it will involve a tax increase, since he says any tax hikes have to start in the Assembly. Prieto said Monday that he’ll only allow a vote on cutting the estate tax – a priority of Christie’s – if it’s paired with a TTF fix.
Sen. Paul Sarlo tried to move the needle a bit Tuesday, outlining three tax cuts – on estates, retirement income and charitable contributions – that could be passed in exchange for a not-yet-determined hike in the gas tax. But the framework lacks details, and it’s unclear whether Christie will take suggestions from the budget committee chairman, rather than directly from the Senate president or Assembly speaker.
PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS. Christie’s preferred presidential candidate Donald Trump – well, his fallback choice after his own campaign didn’t work out – easily won the New York primary Tuesday. He still has a chance of winning enough delegates to capture the Republican nomination, but it’s not a sure thing. And he wouldn’t be favored to emerge victorious from a contested convention.
If Trump is to win the nomination, he’d have to win New Jersey’s primary – an often irrelevant contest, given that it is among the last on the calendar, but possibly crucial for a change. Though important, it might not be competitive, as a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll this week shows Trump at 52 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 24 percent and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at 18 percent.
Will the candidates spend time in New Jersey? Or will they wind up focusing on delegate-rich California, which awards delegates to the candidates who win each congressional district, rather than on a winner-take-all basis like New Jersey? Cruz’s wife, Heidi, is campaigning in New Jersey today, with stops in Freehold, Medford and Wayne.
If Trump comes to New Jersey, will Christie join him? After a few appearances immediately after endorsing Trump, the governor has been conspicuously absent from the campaign trail and media circuit for the past month. Will Christie hit the road on Trump’s behalf for next week’s Northeastern primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island?