Under a banner touting a "Middle-Class Reform Agenda," Gov. Chris Christie called on legislators to enact a mix of reform measures and tax relief bills aimed at helping working New Jerseyans.
Along with ethics reform the governor also gave his opinions on lower taxes, sick leave and shared services reform at a town hall meeting at Southard School in Howell on Wednesday. As he has done in his meetings throughout the state the governor mixed humor, facts and opinion in getting his message across to the nearly 300 people in attendance.
As part of his presentation, the governor discussed what he called his "zero means zero bill." The bill focuses on alleviating the burden of paying sick time to public employees who have not taken their allocated time.
"What's happening across the state is people are leaving public service and getting six figure checks when they leave," he said.
The governor said in total more than $842 million has been paid to public employees, something he will be working to tackle for the future. "I thought the benefit for not taking sick days was not being sick," he said.
The governor said he presented an ethics reform bill to the Statehouse 736 days ago, with little movement from the legislative branch since then. In that time he pointed to several factors, including public officials who holding multiple government jobs, among the reasons for pursuing passage of the bill.
Christie noted that while other administrations have been mired in controversy and scandals his has been largely above the fray. "We are not in this for ourselves we are here to serve the people who have given us the honor of serving them."
The governor discussed shared services, mostly among the school districts. The topic fit the setting, as the building he was speaking was at one time an elementary school in Howell and now serves as a community center in a joint effort between the township, the board of education and the local Police Athletic League.
With many municipalities struggling financially, Christie said his administration will continue to encourage shared services at the municipal and educational levels. "You save money with shared services but if you don't want it you'll have to pay for it yourself and take a cut in state aid." He added, "You make the choice, if you want to have your own you have to pay for it."
The governor also hammered home the need for lower taxes for residents and businesses. Christie said the state needs to find ways to be more attractive. "If we want to be competitive we have to lower our taxes," he said.
When taking questions from residents from around the area Christie discussed a variety of topics including fracking, autism awareness and education spending.
According to the governor's office, this was the 90th town hall meeting that he has held and was aimed to "urge the legislature to move forward on his middle class reform agenda, a set of overdue reforms to deliver relief to New Jersey families."