Apr. 14, 2010 - ON AIR: Audio & Transcript of Governor Christie's Radio Interview with Dennis & Michele

“They didn’t send me down here to play pinochle, they sent me down here to clean this place up and that’s what I am going to do.”

- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

photo of Governor Christie's Radio Interview with Dennis & Michele

Governor Christie was on with NJ 101.5’s Dennis & Michele today.
To listen to the audio of the Governor’s interview click HERE. Full transcript of the interview is provided below.

SEGMENT 1

DENNIS:  Governor Christie welcome to the show.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Dennis, Michele. Good to talk to you.

MICHELE:  You too 

DENNIS:  Good to talk to you. We saw you on MSNBC yesterday on morning Joe.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Yes.

DENNIS:  Good for you.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Squawk box yesterday also. I was on Fox news channel. We had a full NY media day.

DENNIS:  Well you did great. MSNBC I know is not friendly territory. And even though a couple of those weasel liberals tried to, you know, pin you down and a lot of them had nothing to say. And Joe of course is pretty fair across the board. You came off brilliantly yesterday and…

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  I had fun.

DENNIS:  Good, you’re doing a great job. You’re in our prayers cause I don’t know how you, I would’ve quit this job 2 months ago. Soon as I put my hand down off that bible I would’ve said I can’t do this anymore

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  I remember when you said that, I called in to assure you I wouldn’t do it.

DENNIS:  God bless, and I said a prayer for Brett Schundler last night cause I watched him in that senate hearing thing. Oh my God, Teresa RUI? was on him like a Chihuahua ripping at his pants trying to get him to stumble and fall. The big question people want me to ask this morning is you say in local school districts, and how do we know this anyway I guess we’ll have to look up the information, if your district did not take the 1.5% contribution and the pay freeze, vote down the budget. And then Schundler, your education chief, says no don’t do that. What do you have to say?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  What was that he would also look at other factors in determining his vote. And that’s his right to say that.

DENNIS:  Right.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  I didn’t hire a bunch of people to be around me who were always going to agree with me on every particular point.

DENNIS:  Good.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  But certainly he agrees that whether the pay freeze was taken and whether its health contributions are being made by the members of the union…

DENNIS:  Well how do we know that, how do we look that up Governor? Do we have to call up our local school boards and ask them?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  I think you call your local school boards and… But I think it’s pretty easy. There’s now only, I think 12 districts in NJ where they’ve taken the pay freeze. We added a 12th this morning where the teachers union is taking a pay freeze. We have over 120 where the administrators have taken a pay freeze. And I hear your listeners all the time talking about administrators and administrative salaries being out of control and they’re right in a lot of it. But I wanna remind the listeners: 120 districts now, that’s over 20% of the districts in the state, the administrators have taken a pay freeze. It’s now 12 districts that have taken a pay freeze with teachers’ union. Glenrock was added this morning, they voted last night for the teachers to take the pay freeze and make the contributions for their health benefits. So there’s only 12 of them that have done that so far and that’s because the teachers union on State street would rather, you know, continue to be absolutely inflexible in this. They’d rather have teachers be laid off, they’d rather have programs be cut or they’d rather spend their time praying for my death than to do the responsible thing and take a 1 year pay freeze.

DENNIS: Michele…

MICHELE:  Oh yea I had a question real quick. If the state puts a cap on taxes at 4%, which Corzine put into place and you wanna put it at 2.5%, now can the town go to the state and ask to raise the taxes even more? Because that’s what’s happening in my town.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Well they can come…

MICHELE:  I know but is the state going to allow that?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well, we’re not going to allow it. What we’ve said is: Now the problem is with the Corzine caps, as you might imagine I’m sure you won’t be shocked to hear, the Corzine caps has enough holes in it look like a piece of Swiss cheese. And 1 of the holes that he has in the caps was you can raise taxes above the 4% cap for every dollar in state aid that you lose. So now as we cut state aid, municipalities- they can raise above the 4% and that’s why it’s a non sensible tax.

MICHELE:  But does the state still have to approve that or the town can do it without approval?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  No, the town can do it without approval but what we’ve said to municipalities is if you raise taxes above that 4% cap for every million dollars you raise taxes above that 4% we’re gonna take away another million dollars in state aid.

DENNIS:  So, and your pushing for this proposition 2.5 that would be a hard cap at 2.5%.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Right, hard cap at 2.5%. The only out on the cap would be a voter referendum in your town. So if they wanted to go above the 2.5% and the voters from the town... Hey listen they’re
could be instances where people in town decide for who wants the government to make particular programs they want to create.

MICHELE:  But how early can that be put in place? Like how long are we talking for that?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well, we’re talking November election and then it can be put in place as of January 1st of 2011. But what we’re gonna look for in this legislative session is for them to put the hard 2.5% cap in  June by statute and then have it be a constitutional amendment come November. So we’re gonna be proposing and you’ve heard me talk about the tool kit we’re gonna propose. Those things will be introduced into the legislature when they come back into full session in May and we’re gonna be pushing hard for those things to be passed before the budget on June 30th.

DENNIS:  People are wondering why Ray Raider came in about a year ago with a stack, a list of employees that are no show jobs, or middle managers or directors in the state that, you know, could be cut? Why are you going after the, you know, low wage public worker? Are you going after all levels of government? Are you aware of this list of people who do nothing and make high salaries for the state?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Yes, and we… and part of what we’ve done is, we’ve been eliminating positions all over state government and what we’re also doing in the budget this year is all these boards and authorities and commissions where people are getting paid just enough to be able to qualify for the pension, your aware of these like Lucille Davy, the old education commissioner, going on the board of pharmacy uh the old state treasurer going on the board of taxation. We’ve now put in the budget this year that no member of one of those boards can be paid more than $100 a month. That would put it at $1200 and would keep them well below the threshold where they could qualify for the pension. So we’re doing a lot of the things that Ray Raider talked about.

DENNIS:  Ok, because all we’re hearing about in the media is, you know, how you are attacking teachers, and you hate teachers and your making the poor middle class teachers suffer. When we asked you a couple of weeks ago, the biggest cut you made is to the department of treasury. But you’ve made cuts all across the board, it’s just that the NJEA has, you know, the largest voice and can push back.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  They have the largest wallet, lets understand something. Between my budget address and today, the NJEA has spent $1.8 million on television and radio ads attacking me. $1.8 million already in the first 30 days since the budget address. This is what those dues go to the $730 a year that…

DENNIS:  Well somebody made the point, why don’t those dues go to their health benefits and retirement like all other unions and use that money instead of the state money. It’s like we have a group of tax payers that work in the private sector who are paying taxes for the retirement of the people who work in the public sector.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well that’s exactly right, your right. What I’ve said is, you know, if there’s no concerns about the $750 which should be the average cost if someone contributed 1.5%, a teacher contributed 1.5% of their salary for their health benefits. Their union dues are $730 per year, so waive the union dues for this year, live off the $130 million you collected in dues last year. $130 million dues collected just last year. Well known fact.

DENNIS:  Great point governor. This is all been made about teachers and it’s not. Your cutting the budget all across the board and its just become a circus and a show and the grilling of Schundler yesterday was like, come on these people are trying to save everybody money and your whining and screaming and trying to grill this guy over the leaky roof in a school in Newark. It’s just I don’t know how you people don’t explode, I don’t know how you don’t throw chairs across the room everyday because if that was me and my guinea temper I’d  be throwing chairs across the state house every day.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well think about this Dennis, to put it in perspective. We’re cutting $820 million from school aid. We’re making $10.7 billion in cuts, overall. So it’s less than 10% of the cuts we’re making come from school aid despite the fact that 1 of every $3 we spend in the state budget goes to school aid.

DENNIS:  Somebody just called, will you keep the emergency patrol service on the road?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Yes.

DENNIS:  That’s staying.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Absolutely.

DENNIS:  Ok, a guy just called. He was concerned and said that the commissioner said it was going to be cut

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  No, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

MICHELE:  Ok, and can you address this because we hear it all the time where you’re going after the middle class, going after the middle class but you’re not reinstating the millionaires tax. Can you please address that again?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well 1st of all let’s stop calling it the millionaires tax.

MICHELE:  Right it’s like $400,000.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: (Not understandable)

MICHELE:  Oops, we lose him? Wait we lost you start again cause we lost you for a second. Start again.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  (Not understandable)… 63,000 filers above $400,000. 30,000 of them are small business. So they want an increase in taxes on small business at a time when we have 9.8% unemployment and we want those small businesses to spend their money creating (not understandable). The fact of the matter is that the democrats wanted to play politics with this. They (not understandable) Trenton games. (not understandable) December 31st 09 when Jon Corzine was the Governor (not understandable) controlled the legislature. They wanted to increase the tax and there was nothing I could’ve done, nothing. But instead they decided to play political games. And those political games have now led us to them wanting me to increase taxes and I’m not gonna do it.

DENNIS:  Yea most people read into it and understand it…

MICHELE:  But everybody keeps saying it.

DENNIS:  Taxing the rich. Taxes driven you know uh, $70 billion worth of wealth out of the state in the last few years and now to tax people who make over $400,000 like as he said many of them small business owners. There goes another part time job for your kid, there goes a full time job for your husband or whatever. It doesn’t make sense.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Dennis, Its political gamesmanship. I mean, they could’ve done this. If they felt so strongly about it, they knew how bad a shape we were in last December and January, if they were really serious about it they could’ve voted. What they wanted to do is, they wanted to have a political issue to stick it to the new Governor. And so guess what, they got the issue they’re not getting the revenue.

DENNIS:  Casino sports betting in Atlantic City. They say that would bring in a lot of money and solve some of your problems. Are you in favor of it? Can it be done?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well listen, sports gambling the problem is that New Jersey had the opportunity federally to opt into having sports gambling, we decided not to. And that’s why this federal lawsuit is pending right now to try to make sports gambling legal in places like Delaware and New Jersey and others. So until federal government allows us to do it either by congress changing the law or by the courts saying that the law that prohibits us from doing it is unconstitutional, we can’t do it. We certainly can’t do it in time to help any of our budget problems this year

DENNIS:  All right good point. Insurance rates, car insurance rates: anything the government can do to lower those?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Well we wanna continue to have competition. I’ll have to tell you that one of the few things that Jim McGreevy actually did right was bring more competition to the auto insurance business to New Jersey and you see that we have had a leveling off of auto insurance.

DENNIS:  We have.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  I think more competition and I think tort reform also.

DENNIS:  Of course.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Very  helpful in that regard. And that certainly, once we get through this budget cycle, will be one of the things we’ll be looking at. You know, one of the things people – cause I’ve had people ask me all types of questions about when are you gonna do a variety of other things. We’ve been in office now 84 days. In 84 days we’ve cut over $13 billion in spending without raising taxes. In 84 days we have put labor unions underneath the pay to plan umbrella. In 84 days we have done a lot of things. Let us continue to work hard and understand that its only 84 days so far. So we’re gonna get to a lot of these issues but we have to focus very tightly given the fiscal crisis on the budget issues.

DENNIS:  The other question we had, this has been bothering me for years. Is there any way that your administration or any future administration would consider taking funding of education out of property taxes and if not why not?

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SEGMENT 2

DENNIS:  Well, Dennis, listen I think that in the context of the economic crisis we’re in right now, I think, any kind of significant change like that, you would not be able to get the support to do it. 

DENNIS:  Right

DENNIS:  But do I think over the long term we need to re-examine how we are funding all our local needs?  You know, there is no doubt I would be happy to look at that, and sit down with people who want to really get their arms around this and do it the right way and talk about it.  But here’s what I’m not going to do; I’m not going to permit localities to charge income taxes and sales taxes in New Jersey.  Imagine, 580 something towns charging local income taxes and sales taxes, and try to keep control over that in New Jersey. You know, craziness.  Unless we have controls in other places, you know, this kind of thing that’s being proposed now is nothing I would be in favor of.  But would I be willing to take a look at it?  You know, well meaning people, sitting down and having a conversation and really trying to study it.  I’d be happy to do that, but we have to get through this crisis first. 

DENNIS:  We have a caller on the line that says, “Why are you only going after certain pensions?  Why didn’t you include judiciary appointments in budget cuts?” and, “You are protecting your appointees.”

DENNIS:  Well, I mean, it’s crazy, we cut $40 million from the judicial branch of government; $40 million from the judicial branch of government.  We didn’t protect any specific pensions, in fact, in the budget that we have now, as I said before, we are getting rid of those people who are using these boards of authority of commission to pad their pension and stay in the pension system by lower their compensation to more than $100 a month so they can’t qualify for the pension system. 

DENNIS:  Would you consider putting tolls on roads like 195 or 287

DENNIS:  No.

DENNIS:  Ok.  Have you looking into the fishing game thing I talked about, the limits on weak fish.

DENNIS:  Yes I did, yes I did.  Because of you, I had to read a six page memo on this.

DENNIS:  What can you do about it?

DENNIS:  You know what I found out?  It’s all Federal restriction.

DENNIS:  No! Really?

DENNIS:  Yes.  Yea, it’s Federal Restriction

MICHELE:  Tough Break!

DENNIS:  You can’t do anything about how many herring I can take in as bait coming up to tributaries in Estridge;  you can only take ten this year.  I can only keep two Flanark, I can only keep one weak fish.  You can’t do anything about this in New Jersey?

DENNIS:  I had to read six pages on the Federal Law on this, Dennis.  You know, this is what helped to put me to sleep one night.  And I read this and said,” next time I come in to the station,” which I think I’m in there for Ask the Governor on the 21st, a week from today, “I will read you the memo that I got from my DEP Commissioner so that you can read it as well.”  But my understanding from him is…

::INTERUPTION::

DENNIS:  Whoa, that sounds weird.

DENNIS:  …about salt water fishing is coming from the Government.

MICHELE:  Is he on tape?

DENNIS:  Wow, all right.  I’ll look into it again, I think you can do something about it, I don’t think it’s all Federal.

DENNIS:  What do you want me to do?  I’ll get some folks to look the other way when you’re fishing Dennis.

DENNIS:  No, no, I want to be legal.  Hey, if you can cut some of the staff of Fish and Game, you now, and every time I get on a boat I’m checked by the Coast Guard, the State Police, Fish and Game.  I can’t even drop my line in the water before six members of my government have checked my documents and looked under my- you know.

DENNIS:  We don’t do that with everybody, just suspicious looking characters like you.

DENNIS:  Like me, yea I know.  I look like I’m Middle Eastern.

MICHELE:  Like you, exactly.  Yea, but with the healthcare bill that the President signed and a lot of states going against it, any thoughts about what New Jersey is going to do?

DENNIS:  You know, I’m still studying that Michelle.  I’ve gotten some briefing now from my Attorney General, I’ve gotten some briefings from the Health Commissioner, and now, you know, we have to sit down and make a decision about whether I think what’s going on is in the best interest for New Jersey or something that we need to fight.

DENNIS:  Can you hang on through traffic break or do you have to go?

DENNIS:  No, I can hang on.

DENNIS:  Oh good.  We’re going to take a look at traffic, hang on; we’re talking to Governor Chris Christie.

::BREAK::

DENNIS:  Alright, thanks for hanging on Governor.   I heard yesterday on MSNBC that you are now, that you have a personal trainer and you’re working out three days a week.

DENNIS:  I am.

DENNIS:  How’s the progress?

DENNIS:  Listen, I feel better.  I have more energy.

DENNIS:  So, you haven’t lost any weight, is what I’m getting?

DENNIS:  Oh gee, I’m not going to be giving you weight updates.

MICHELE:  You’re going to have to check in with Dennis every week

DENNIS:  What am I going to have to go?  The Dennis weigh in? No.

DENNIS:  I can still make you, I still can make you a meal, a healthy meal .  You’re still able to eat good food, right?

DENNIS:  Of course.

DENNIS:  I want to come over to the, you know, the mansion, or wherever you hang out, and make you a nice healthy Italian meal. 

DENNIS:  You and Michelle, you know, with spouses at Drumthwacket.  Is that what we’re talking about?

DENNIS:  Whatever you like! I’ll cook for the whole family if you let me.  I’ll cook for Mary, Pat and the kids.

DENNIS:  That sounds great!  Now I’m definitely taking you up on that!

MICHELE:  We got to hook that up!

DENNIS:  I’ll give you the memo on the fishing thing and you make dinner for me.

DENNIS:  Awesome, that’s a great trade.  Anything else that you want to clear up that’s out there in the media that you wanted to?

DENNIS:  Listen.  I want everybody to understand.  We are in awful shape in the state and we’re not going to make it better by continuing to do exactly the same thing we have been doing for the last 20 years.  If spending in this year’s budget had been permitted to go the way Governor Corzine wanted it to go, our spending over the last 20 years will have increased 320%.  An average of 16% a year at the state level.  This is unsustainable.  So I understand the cuts are difficult.  I understand everybody out there is hurting.  And I know no one’s going to like what we’re doing.  But were doing what we have to do.  And candidly, we’re doing what I told you we were going to do during the election.  Which is going to come in, cut spending, shrink the size of government, and not raise taxes.  And so no one out there should be surprised at this, and I’m going to keep faith with the people who put me into office.  They didn’t send me down here to play peanuckle.  They sent me down here to clean this place up and that’s what I am going to do.

DENNIS:  How about other areas of corruption? Other areas of expenditure, where the state seems to pea away money.  Do you have a team of people looking at every corner where money is being wasted.

DENNIS:  We do.  One of the things that we’re doing with this budget that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is that we’re going to consolidate a lot of those areas that look fraud, waste and abuse.  So we’re going to get rid of the Inspector General’s office.  We’re going to get rid (SCI) State Commission of Investigation.  And we’re going to take parts of their resources and put them in the State Controller’s office with Matt Boxer, who I think is doing a good job and he started out with some of the stuff in Atlantic City, some of the other things that are going.  I think he has written some really good reports.  Showing state government of where we have to go to save this money.  We’re going to give Matt some more resources and some more investigators to do that.  You used to work for me at the U.S. Attorney’s office in my public corruption unit. He was a John Corzine appointee.  But a good guy, a guy who original worked for me.  I’m happy to have him.  I’m going to increase what he’s got in terms of staffing. So we can stop just throwing money down the drain.          

DENNIS:  What about changing the pension system moving forward?  To where new hires in all levels, as you said except for police and fire, you don’t get the 25 year free vacation at the end.  Because…   
          
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  We have to move toward that Dennis.  We have to move toward more pension and benefit reforms.  The stuff that we’ve done so far in the first 60 days, in cooperation with the legislature was a good start.  But at the time I said it was only a start and we’re going to be introducing more reforms going forward in May and June that we’re going to be pushing to get through the legislature because that’s the only way we’re going to be dealing with the long term fiscal problems of the state.  You are absolutely right about that.  Both on pensions and on health benefits.

DENNIS:  What about welfare reform?  Is there anything that can be done there, or is that stripped down to as far as it can go?

DENNIS:  In this budget we made some more reductions to welfare in this budget, and I think we have gone probably about as far as we can go. 

DENNIS:  Alright, Governor thank you so much for taking the time today, we appreciate it.

DENNIS:  I am always happy to be on with you guys, and now next Wednesday I’m going to lead you in and we’re going to get some dates to have you guys come see us at the Governor’s residents to have dinner.  Now my kids will be there too so best of luck.

DENNIS:  Listen, I cook for picky kids and their mother every night.  So, I’m fully prepared to go whatever direction I need to go.  So, its next Wednesday night, Ask the Governor, at 7 o’clock here with Eric Scott

DENNIS:  Looking forward to it!  Love that hour.

DENNIS:  Alright, keep up the good work.  We’re praying for you, we’re pulling for you, and all your staff; don’t stop

DENNIS:  And Dennis, please say the right prayers, not the ones that are, the ones that are, you know.

MICHELE:  Yeah, right.  Do you want to address that real quick though?  I mean she stormed out after just talking for fifteen minutes.  Has she reached out to you again?

DENNIS:  No, and candidly, I don’t care to have any conversation until they ask for the resignation of the guy who would do this. And you all know that this is a triple standard.  If a member of my staff had sent out that E-mail with her name in it, there would have been protests on the steps of the State House demanding that person’s resignation. 

DENNIS & MICHELLE:  True.

DENNIS:  Of course yes.  If a child in school had sent that note to another child with a teacher’s name in it, that child would have suspended and probably sent for mandatory counseling.  But, if you’re a union leader with the NJEA, nothing happens to you.  I’m tired of playing into the triple standard.  It’s not that I’m thin skinned, I could care less on a personal level what they’re doing, but the Office of the Governor deserves more respect than that, and I’m not going to allow them to hold everybody else to a standard that they’re unwilling.  They’re holding our kids to that standard, they’re holding other public officials to that standard, but I’m not willing to hold myself to that standard.   I’m not going to deal with people who think there is a different set of rules that apply to them. 

DENNIS:  Alright good point.  Alright Governor, thanks again for your time of day.

DENNIS:   Thank you guys, I appreciate it.

MICHELE:  See ya!

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