On the day that New Jersey reported a slight drop in its March unemployment rate, Gov. Christie visited Philadelphia and Burlington County to discuss how he hopes to attract new businesses and opportunities for New Jersey workers.
Standing before a mirrored solar-technology test bed at the Lockheed Martin facility in Moorestown, Christie outlined plans for a privately funded nonprofit, Choose New Jersey, to "sell our state" to businesses.
Personal facilitators, working under Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, also would help potential business owners interested in New Jersey move through the permit processes, he said. The initiatives would replace the Office of Economic Growth.
Christie said he hoped to draw employers that would put down "deep roots," as Lockheed Martin has. The aerospace and defense technology company has been in Moorestown for more than 50 years.
"We need to create an atmosphere here that would not permit Lockheed to ever think about leaving," he said. "That's our obligation."
Speaking to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce earlier in the day, Christie said New Jersey's high taxes made the state less attractive than Pennsylvania and New York for businesses. He pledged to fight decades of overregulation by cutting the "25,000 existing pages" of rules he said hampered business.
Christie reiterated that he would not reinstate the so-called "millionaire's tax" that applied to individuals and some small businesses earning more than $400,000 annually.
Democrats in the Legislature and some advocacy groups have urged Christie to reinstate the surcharge to alleviate some cuts he has proposed to close a budget gap of close to $11 billion in the next fiscal year.
"They can ask me as many times as they want, and I'm not going to do it," Christie said.
If the Democratic-controlled Legislature really wanted the surcharge, the governor said, lawmakers should have passed it while his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine, was in office instead of letting it lapse.
Christie gave few details about who would lead Choose New Jersey or pay for its operation. His spokesman said that information would be released soon.