Part 4 of 4 parts - Governor Chris Christie holds a conversation with town officials and community leaders about the budget while in Haddon Heights, N.J on Tuesday, March 9, 2010. (Transcript Below)
Governor Christie: Not only that, Governor Corzine two years ago set up a separate health plan for school employees. The State Health Benefit Plan, which is a very rich plan, $15 deductibles. I pay 1.5% of my salary starting this Saturday when I start on state health benefits. I've been paying COBRA since I left as US Attorney a year ago December. I'm going to wind up paying 1.5% of my salary, which is $175,000, for full family medical, dental, and vision for me, my wife, and my four children. Think about that. Think—well, not for me for the rest of my life, because I'm not in the pension system and I won't get benefits for the rest of my life, but in the teacher situation they'll pay nothing for the rest of their lives for that coverage, nothing. Now you add to that—so let's switch from the teachers. Let's switch to the state employees, state employees who Governor Corzine made a deal with last year—now get ready for this. Some state employees this year in this fiscal year will be getting an 11% salary increase, 11%. Why? The governor had a contract with them to give them 3 ½% salary increases per year last year. In the middle of a reelection he had a new negotiation with them and got them to defer their last year's 3 ½% salary increase into Fiscal Year '11 where they were already getting another 3 ½% salary increase, so now that's 7. So how did you get to 11 Governor? Here's how you get to 11, because we also have a grade and step system in our civil service system so that if you're not at the top step of your grade every step you move up every year amounts to about a 4% increase...So I said during the campaign, and I absolutely believe this, in my heart I could care less about getting reelected. I am going to do what needs to be done and I am going to beg, cajole, push, pull, the folks that I need to to come along with me because all of them know it's true. Now it's just about having the courage to do it. So you'll see those numbers go down for me, and some of you will say he's crazy. He's never going to get reelected. I don't care. If I walk out at the end of four years and we have this fiscal situation under control and I hand it off to somebody else I hope they take the same position and are responsible too, but that's what I'm going to do. I asked the mayors at the League of Municipalities last week in Trenton—I told them that this was like that part in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. If you saw that movie, you remember when those Bolivian soldiers were chasing them, right? And they got to the cliff, and they had a seminal decision to make. If we stay here and do the same thing we've been doing they're going to catch us, they're going to shoot us in the back and kill us, and for sure we're going to die. They looked over the cliff, and they saw the water well down below, and they said if we jump we'd probably die. Well in my book probably is better than certainly when it comes to death, and so what did they do? They held hands and they jumped off the cliff, and they landed in the water and they landed fine. Of course it's a bad analogy because they died later, but that's just a whole other thing. I'll get back to that. Just stick with me to the point where they get in the water and they're alive. The rest of this part, you know, they kept doing the same bad things again, so we can work the analogy but let's just stop at the water part. They lived. We need to jump off the cliff together, and I'll jump first. I'll put my hands behind me and I'll hope to feel some hands grabbing on as I go, but that's what you elected me to do. You elected me to do this, and there are going to be moments you're not going to like it, but you're going to know that this is what you sent me here to do. There's no more playing along the margins in New Jersey. We've got to fix this broken state, and I will fix it or go down trying, and that's the attitude I brought to this. That's why I came back to Haddon Heights because here you've shown a willingness and an ability to make difficult decisions that are not always universally popular to put your town back on the right track and to make it once again a place where people can afford to live and raise their families, and so when I was thinking where to start this conversation I thought about coming here to see this mayor and all of you who have contributed to that solution and hope to enlist you in the fight to solve the problems for the state.