WEST NEW YORK, N.J. - Gov. Christie continued to push for a stalled package of legislative bills Tuesday that he said were essential to help New Jersey municipalities rein in costs that get passed on to homeowners in their property-tax bills.
At a town-hall style meeting in West New York, Christie focused on his wrangling with the Legislature over a proposal to prevent public workers from cashing out large amounts of accumulated sick days at retirement.
Christie said he would only sign a bill that ends the practice altogether and criticized lawmakers for sending him a bill that would cap the payouts at a level he said was too high. It makes no sense to reward people for not getting sick, he said.
He told the audience in the immigrant-heavy, largely working-class town that he was working to help them keep "more money in your pockets, and less in the government's."
"In New Jersey we've tried every other way in the state to keep property taxes in check and have failed," Christie said. "The only way we're going to solve this problem is not to tax you more; it's to stop spending so much."
Christie asked the mayors of West New York, Union City, and Hoboken, who joined him on the stage, if they had a magic wand to wave over Trenton, what their one wish would be.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat, said she supported the governor's push to update civil-service rules and make it easier for towns to consolidate or share services. She said layoffs she was forced to make after an 80 percent tax increase in Hoboken before she took office were meant to save the city money but were bleeding it dry with litigation.
"Everybody is suing, the process is a big waste of time, and it's very, very expensive," Zimmer told the governor. "We did that to try and cut costs, but now have to defend those actions."
West New York Mayor Felix Roque said his town was strangled by payouts to retiring employees. He gave the example of a retired municipal worker whom the town was litigating against to stop paying $306,000 in retirement benefits and unused sick time.
Christie said that to date, the Legislature had passed only five of the 20 bills in his "tool kit" for property-tax relief, which consists of 33 proposals.
The tone of Tuesday's meeting, held in the auditorium of St. Joseph's High School, was more subdued than some previous town halls. The governor has garnered headlines for blasting his detractors or tearing down those who took the microphone to publicly criticize him.