Governor Christie strolled along the Asbury Park boardwalk Monday – taking a break from writing his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention – and defended the “New Jersey Comeback” in the face of rising unemployment numbers.
“It’s really sad that you have elements of the media and Democrats that are rooting for failure,” Christie said. “You’ve never seen the Democrats so excited as you saw them last week when unemployment went up.”
Christie was at the shore town to promote the impact of clean beaches and waterways on the state’s economy, but spent much of his time defending his economic policies.
Monday’s event was the governor’s first public appearance he was named the convention’s keynote and the first since Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney named his vice presidential pick, ending speculation that Christie would be the running mate.
The boardwalk visit was also the first since two big economic announcements last week: July tax revenue came in 5.5 percent below projections and the state lost 12,000 jobs and unemployment jumped to 9.8 percent last month – the highest rate since Christie took office in Jan. 2010.
“I get so weary of the press’ desire to keep writing negative stories,” Christie said. “The numbers of jobs we create has nothing to do with the unemployment rate.”
Christie is relying on lofty revenue projections to sustain a $2 billion spending increase in the current budget cycle, which ends June 30, including funding for his proposed income tax cut, which Democrats have been hesitant to enact.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, called Christie’s remarks misleading.
“Last month, New Jersey lost the most amount of jobs of any state in the entire country,” he said in a statement. “Instead of working on a plan to fix our skyrocketing unemployment rate, Governor Christie is trying to distract people from his administration’s complete failure on this issue.”
Christie said the state has added private sector jobs in nine of the last 11 months. But New Jersey lost 7,100 private sector jobs and 4,900 public sector jobs in July as the nation saw an increase of 163,000.
Sweeney turned Christie’s own words against him, quoting the Republican’s criticism of his Democratic predecessor Gov. Jon S. Corzine when he was running against him in 2009.
“Keep in mind, this is the same person who, as candidate Christie, said, ‘I don’t know how when unemployment continues to go up that you can say that's a success,’” Sweeney said. “Maybe it’s time the governor start looking in the mirror.”
Christie launched his “New Jersey Comeback” tour earlier this year holding town hall style events across the state to tout pension and benefits reforms, capping local property taxes and creating more than 60,000 jobs since taking office.
He rebranded the events last month visiting beaches and calling it his “Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour,” as he pushed for legislators to return to Trenton to enact his income tax cut proposal – a mantra he continued while in Asbury Park.
“It’s begun,” he said of his comeback. “And the last piece of this is going to be, ‘Are we gonna in fact make taxes more reasonable?’ ”
But Monday’s event was not part of that series, instead it was billed as the “Promoting the Jersey Shore Press Conference.”
Although he declined to discuss the specifics of his keynote address – only to say he’s on his seventh draft and is working with a close group of friends and advisors – Christie is expected to bring his “comeback” theme to the national stage in Tampa on Aug. 28.
Christie, who was rumored to be in the running as a vice presidential candidate, said he received an email from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he was flying back from a West Coast fundraising trip Aug. 10 saying he was not the pick.
“He had decided to go in a different direction,” Christie said Romney told him after landing. “We had a nice conversation.”
Christie reiterated that he had no interest in leaving New Jersey or becoming vice president and said he supports Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and is happy to give the keynote.
“I like Congressman Ryan,” Christie said. “He's a good guy.”
With only a week until he speaks before his largest national audience to date, Christie also refuted claims that unemployment is at its highest in 35 years, saying the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the figure, will refine the number in coming months before issuing a final tally of unemployed in the state.
“They readjust almost always downward,” Christie said.
Democrats have seized on the latest revenue and jobs numbers saying they’re evidence of a “Jersey Setback.”
But Christie said they’re “micro analyzing” the monthly reports adding that Democrats’ focus on the July revenue figures is, “their attempt to justify their unwillingness to cut taxes for the people of New Jersey.”
The Democrats have defending their decision to wait until January to consider a tax cut, saying they want to ensure Christie’s revenue projections come in on target.