In case you missed it, a good-humored yet combative governor found himself in front of a super-friendly audience in Haddonfield yesterday. Here's my story in today's paper:
Gov. Christie, who has doubled the frequency of his town hall meetings as the days ticktock down to the deadline for signing the state budget, brought his fabled road show to the heart of Camden County on Tuesday.
The Republican governor is now crisscrossing the state for these events twice a week, as opposed to once a week earlier in the year, and except for fielding softball questions from the audience about issues related to small business, autism, and solar power, Christie hammered away at one theme in Haddonfield's Central Middle School gym Tuesday: Taxes need to be cut, and Assembly Democrats will be to blame if that doesn't happen.
Legislation is pending on changing teacher tenure rules, raising the minimum wage, and eliminating unused sick-time payouts for public workers. Then there's the issue of revamping the state's system of higher education. But the question looming over this budget, due July 1, and overshadowing other issues is whether it will include income-tax cuts the governor has proposed.
"I'm going to fight for the next 19 days," Christie said, referring to the budget deadline, which is also when lawmakers traditionally head out of town for vacation. "At times it may not look pretty, so avert your eyes. … When I fight, I fight to win."
He told the crowd that in the coming weeks, given the heated rhetoric that this month is known for, "invariably I'll say something I shouldn't say."
The crowd of about 750, one of the largest to show up for a Christie town hall — and he has held 83 of them during his term — was just fine with that. Those who were called upon for questions were uniformly supportive during the nearly two-hour event. Christie did not get a single adversarial query. The matter of the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University, one of the most controversial issues in South Jersey, never came up.
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