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Christie Takes a Cakewalk on the Ocean City Boardwalk

Gov. Chris Christie finds a receptive audience on his "Tax Relief Tour" of the Jersey Shore.

The Chris Christie public-relations machine rolled into Ocean City on Wednesday, and the New Jersey governor met a mostly fawning crowd in a Republican town at the Republican tip of the state.

Christie is in the middle of his "Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour," a public flogging of Democrats over a stalled tax cut or, as he calls it, an effort to "kick their rear ends from one end of the state to the other."

The Republican governor spoke at a 3 p.m. public "town hall" meeting (the 91st in his two-and-a-half years as governor) on the Ocean City Music Pier. A crowd of more than 200 people—including a who's who of city and business leaders—cheered Christie's proposals and his call for state legislators to "get the hell off the beach and go back to Trenton."

State Democrats have agreed to a compromise bill that would allow New Jersey residents to claim up to 10 percent of property taxes as a credit on state income taxes. But they want wait until Jan. 1 to see if the state can afford the tax cut, which is based on revenue projections that the nonpartisan state budget officer calls unrealistic (Christie projects a 7.2 percent increase in collection of taxes and fees.). Christie wants to see the bill passed immediately.

Christie's whistle-stop tour illustrates the rapid change of the political landscape under the new governor—with the debate taking place not on the floor and back rooms of the Statehouse but in carefully orchestrated public appearances and in the resulting YouTube videos posted by the Governor's Office.

The videos cultivate an image of the tough-talking renegade who is not afraid to offend his critics and detractors. And based on the large crowds that have gathered see him in other towns, it's clear that Christie has become an increasingly polarizing figure.

But in Ocean City, Christie found a friendly audience, and he seemed to win over even a few detractors with his straight talk and self-deprecation.

"It is much harder to hate up close," said Tia McLaughlin of Allentown, NJ, repeating a line that Christie had used a few moments earlier.

McLaughlin, a school child study team member, had come with a prepared question about the betrayal she felt after Christie failed to make good on promises about protecting teacher pensions. Christie had made the promise in an open letter to teachers during his successful 2009 campaign for governor.

"I had no idea the pension system was about to go bankrupt," Christie said.

He said he understands the anger and betrayal, but he doesn't understand why public employees are "angry at the first guy that's telling you the truth."

Teachers pay more in pension contributions, yet the state has not fully met its own obligations in pension funding.

Christie's appearance on the Music Pier included none of the confrontations with critics that he seems so proud of—"My message to you is, 'Don't be afraid,' " Christie said as he called for questions from the audience.

Fielding a wide range of questions, Christie:

  • Said he fully supports Mitt Romney for president: "I will tell you respectfully, I think he's the right guy."
  • Listed ways the state can help lower local property taxes: continue to provide school aid, maintain the 2 percent cap on local tax levies, encourage shared services and redistribute school aid from the 31 urban "Abbott" districts that take almost two-thirds of it.
  • Waffled on future presidential aspirations — "I've  got a job to do in New Jersey. I made a deal with all of you," he said, before adding, "If there's an opening, I'll think about it."
  • Said he supports term limits for state legislators, though he doesn't see much enthusiasm for the issue among the existing legislature.

Christie is scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, in late August, and some have suggested he's pushing for the immediate tax cut to provide fodder for his address.

Ric July 27, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Our Fat Guv speaks from both sides of his huge mouth. As Patch notes he is on a tour flogging democrats yet this afternoon I saw his commercial saying how much he has done for us and how he works with democrats. If he cannot tell the truth in his commercials how can any of us trust anything the Big One says? The Guv is seriously deluded and that is why Mitt dropped him from the short Veep list.
Bobby29 July 27, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I must disagree with you here Ric, Christie is widely popular in the GOP and many wanted him to jump into the Presidential race. I for one don't like some things about him but, I for one like his attitude. When he believes something, he'll come right out and say it which I like about him. Things have to get done so we can get out of this mess.
agent itchy July 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
for nearly a hundred years Governors from both parties supported the state pension system. before 1997, the NJPERS was in the top five most solvent systems in the US. however, that huge pot of gold was just too tempting for Whitman and every Gov after her. each Governor has either borrowed or stole funds to cover other costs, usually a tax cut. this Gov wants to offer you a 10% income tax cut while avoiding another years obligation. it's like ignoring the minimum payment on your credit card and then using that card at Red Lobster. any Gov who floats more bonds and refinances obligations is just "kicking the can" for the next Gov to deal with. as a staunchly fiscal-conservative, i can not support Christie. it's completely un-American to break your word with your own employees. if moving new employees to a 401-K is the right move than so be it, but taking employees money from their bank accounts is called stealing and THAT'S what Christie is doing.
Dan July 27, 2012 at 02:25 PM
A bully many times over..........still thinks he is a prosecutor........ Smoke and mirrors approach just like a politician.......are we any better now i.e. jobs than when the Corzine Crew was in charge? I think not.........CC needs toagent a grip on NJ and thn run to DC so we can get someone to make repairs in Trenton

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