Christie advocates end to limits on campaign donations

Gov. Christie wants the 2% cap reinstated for police, firefighter raises.
Gov. Christie wants the 2% cap reinstated for police, firefighter raises. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 17, 2014

FRANKLIN, N.J. Gov. Christie voiced support Tuesday for an end to campaign-finance limits, which he said have led to a system that has obscured the sources - but not stemmed the rise - of money in politics.

"The idea you're going to take money out of politics is just not going to happen," said Christie, who said he supported unlimited campaign contributions with donations to be made public within 48 hours. "None of these laws change that. So let's just have transparency to it."

He described the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down aggregate limits on what individuals can give per election cycle, as "peeling back another layer of the onion with all these rules that haven't worked anyway."

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie has raked in record donations, raising $33 million for the group since November.

The New Jersey governor, a possible presidential candidate, also traveled recently to Las Vegas, where he met with Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and Republican mega-donor being courted for his support in the 2016 race.

Christie's comments came in response to a question from a student at Tuesday's town-hall event in the Somerset National Guard Armory, where the governor also fielded questions about future costs of the Affordable Care Act, open-space funding, and a state tax on residents who sell their homes.

Christie focused most of his remarks on the state's fiscal 2015 budget and his push to curb rising entitlement costs.

He continued to put heat on Assembly Democrats to reinstate a 2 percent cap on police and firefighter raises reached through arbitration, calling the proposal crucial to curtailing property taxes, and accusing lawmakers of acting in the interest of unions.

Noting that the original cap passed with near-unanimous support in 2010, Christie said there was no reason for the Assembly not to back the measure now - except that "politically, they don't want to do it."

"They want to give away more of your money," Christie said. Assembly Democrats have opposed the proposal, he said, "because the people who donate so generously to their campaigns . . . are telling them they don't want it."

Of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson), Christie said, "He said he wants to negotiate with me. . . . What's to negotiate? We have a system that works." The cap has kept raises to an average of 1.86 percent the last four years, Christie said.

Prieto on Monday criticized Christie for holding a rally with about 100 mayors and local officials calling for the cap's reinstatement, saying it was "disappointing" that the governor would not negotiate with the Assembly. Prieto said the Assembly wanted to "provide fairness" to police and firefighters.

Tony Wieners, president of the state Policemen's Benevolent Association, said Christie's "attacks on binding arbitration are par for the course and are more about politics than fact." Most contracts are not decided through arbitration, Wieners said.

The Assembly and Senate passed a bill in March that would have extended the cap, which expired April 1. But Christie - who said the bill would have offered too many exemptions from the requirements - vetoed it and sent back a different proposal. The Senate passed Christie's version, but the Assembly has not.

On the eve of the cap's expiration, a flurry of municipalities and counties filed with the state to renew union contracts. The state Public Employment Relations Commission said 74 interest arbitration petitions were filed between March 27 and April 1, compared with 28 petitions in 2013, and 48 in 2012.

Taking questions Tuesday, Christie said it was too soon to say how the Affordable Care Act would affect the state's future costs for public employee health benefits. President Obama "has put off all the bad stuff until he's almost out the door," he said.

Christie criticized a state tax on people who sell their homes, saying he would repeal the realty transfer fee if the Legislature sent him a bill. He did not say how the state would replace the revenues, projected to net $325 million in next year's budget.

Christie said the state could not afford to dedicate a portion of the sales tax to pay for the state's open-space program, a proposal that had been pushed by some environmental groups. Another plan, which would use a portion of corporate-tax revenues for open space, recently cleared a Senate committee.

"To me, there's no way we can get this done without a new tax," Christie said. Paying for open-space could be possible if the state found savings through changes to the pension system, he said.


mhanna@phillynews.com

609-989-8990 @maddiehanna

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