Chris Christie’s “All-In” Agenda Strategy [AUDIO]
As the Democrat-controlled State legislature returns to Trenton, Governor Chris Christie is on the warpath demanding action on long stagnant initiatives.
The fall agenda is ambitious and when the calendar flips to January it will officially be a gubernatorial election year. Is Christie running the risk of tarnishing his image if he can't usher through a tax cut or the reforms he's pushing or does he have the Democrats right where he wants them?
Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley says, "There's some risk in not getting what you want, but the fact is the Governor has crafted his agenda in such a way as to push the risk right back at the Democrats."
Christie is calling for tougher financial disclosure from lawmakers and their senior staff. Among the Governor's agenda items are; a full ban on dual office holding that ends the grandfathering provision; pension forfeiture for elected officials convicted on corruption charges; banning the use of campaign funds to pay for legal costs.
The big-ticket items for Christie as he cranks up his town hall schedule are; ending payouts for public employees' unused sick days; closing a loophole in the 2% cap on property tax hikes that allows towns to charge user fees for things that are typically built into their budgets; and the guarantee of a tax cut now.
"In the mix are some items that are really low-hanging fruit," explains Woolley. "When you go to the public and say, 'I want ethics reform,' the public says, 'Yes.'"
Democrats passed a bill to cap sick leave payouts at $15,000. Christie vetoed it. Democrats countered with a bill that had a $7,500 cap. Christie consistently says, "Zero means zero."
Democrats say they will give Christie the tax cut he wants in January, but only if revenues match expenditures. The Governor says the State can afford the cut now even though the non-partisan research arm of the legislature released a report last week saying revenues are $254 million behind projections for the Fiscal year that ended on June 30.
There's really no downside for Christie in demanding these items says Woolley, "He can always say these are good items and it's an uncooperative Democratic legislature that is standing in the way of reform. He's crated the agenda in such a way that most of the risk really is on the way the Democrats respond to it."
On at least one initiative Christie has an ally in Senate President Steve Sweeney who also wants top close loopholes in the 2% property tax cap.