Christie Claims Success at Municipal League Conference
The governor pointed to his administration's efforts on curbing local property tax increases and attracting business.
Gov. Chris Christie touted progress on property tax reform and creation of private sector jobs during a luncheon speech Thursday at the 96th annual League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City.
Citing a "tool-kit" aimed at helping local government maintain a two percent cap on property tax increases, the governor said, “Think now where we were two years ago, and where we are today. Think about what we have done, first and foremost, in terms of property taxes in New Jersey.”
The governor acknowledged that the effort enjoyed bi-partisan support but he also criticized Democratic legislative leaders for not strengthening two bills in the backage, which he vetoed as inadequate.
One bill focuses on banning the practice of accumulated sick days for public workers, which allows state employees to “cash out” unused sick days at retirement.
“I don’t know why anyone is entitled to [money] for the privilege of not getting sick,” Christie said, drawing applause in a crowded hotel ballroom. “There has to be a limit somewhere to this.”
Christie made an example of Parsippany, which he said had four township employees retire and collect a combined $900,000 in sick leave pay.
The governor said even if sick leave pay was capped at $7,500, when combined with what New Jersey already owes retirees, the state would still owe $3.25 billion based on the number of public employees.
“Let’s end this now,” Christie said.
The second bill addresses civil service rules. It would enable towns to opt-out of the civil service system and allow furloughs for employees. Christie vetoed the bill because it changed some rules of the current structure, but did not allow towns to withdraw.
Christie also said that municipalities cannot take full advantage of shared services without civil service reform, calling for what he called, "real civil service reform with real shared services reform, that Republicans and Democrats can agree on, because it should not be a party issue."
The governor told the municipal delegates that his administration had made significant progress on job creation, even while addressing spending and taxes.
“Some people have forgotten that we can chew gum and walk at the same time,” Christie said, as he touched on creating jobs. Christie said the state has seen 38,000 new private sector jobs.
Recently Christie was on the campaign trail, stumping for Republicans across the nation, including in California. But the governor said he was also meeting with large private businesses, convincing them to expand to New Jersey.
“Business was without hope,” Christie said. “They were fleeing to go someplace else, they aren’t doing that anymore. In fact, they are coming back.”
The large room had almost every seat filled, as the conference wound down on its final day. It has been running since Tuesday at the Atlantic City Convention Center, and across the street at the Sheraton Hotel.
“We should not be content that everything is done,” Christie said. “And I have heard you, about everything that needs to be finished.”