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Governor Christie Responds To Teacher During Town Hall

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Uploaded on Sep 8, 2010

Governor Chris Christie responds to a teacher's question during a town hall meeting at Raritan Township. Discusses the teachers' union and the need for shared sacrifice. September 8, 2010.
(transcript below)

Q: Hi my name is Marie Corfield, I'm a teacher across the street and I wonder how your reforms are going to help the middle class when so many middle-class teachers have been laid off this year and so many middle-class teachers are spending tons of money out of their pockets to supplement the budgets that were cut so they can buy supplies and so many parents are having to outlay more and more money now for programs that were originally paid for by the school districts. And I'd also like to say New Jersey has some of the best schools in the country, and this administration has done nothing but lambaste us and tell us what horrible schools we have. We have some failing schools. But the majority of our schools are wonderful and fantastic and this school district has many of them. And I feel like you have alienated so many people with your rhetoric about how we are bilking this state of all this money when I'm a taxpayer and because of the budget cuts that you have implemented, I am going to have a hard time paying my bills this year.

Governor Christie: Well, a few things.

First of all, I have not lambasted the public school system in the state of New Jersey. What I have lambasted—well listen, let's start with this: I sat here, stood here, and very respectfully listened to you. If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question. So if you'd like to conduct a respectful conversation I'm happy to do it. If you don't please go and sit down and I'll answer the next question. What's your choice?

All right. First, the cuts that we made this year were the result of a loss of a billion dollars in federal aid that was used as a one-time hit to artificially boost education funding in New Jersey. I didn't have that billion dollars to spend, President Obama sent it one time and Jon Corzine spent it all in one year, in his reelection year. So, I had a $1 billion hole to fill in the state education budget with declining state revenues. Despite that, I only cut 820 million from the budget which means that we spent an additional $280 million in state tax funds on K-to-12 education, more than was spent by Jon Corzine in the year before. So this idea that somehow I cut the state support of K-to-12 education is wrong. We lost a billion dollars in federal funding.

Second, my lambasting and my rhetoric is directed very clearly at one set of people, and that is the leaders of the teacher's union in the state of New Jersey. They were given an option in a time when everyone in this economy is suffering, when we have had people in the private sector who have been out of work for years, and are continued to expect to be paying their property taxes or they will lose their homes, I asked teachers across the state of New Jersey to take a one-year pay freeze and to contribute 1 ½% of their salary towards their health benefits for those who didn't contribute already. The teacher's union response was that this was the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state. Ask the people in the private sector in the state of New Jersey when the last time was they got a raise. Yet the average teacher contracts before I became Governor had 4.9% annual increases in an era when we are at zero or 1% inflation. Now that can't be justified any longer.

Next, the health benefit costs in the state of New Jersey for everyone in this room are out of control, and if you look at it the federal government for federal employees pays 66% of the cost of the health benefits for their employees. The state of New York pays 83% of the health costs for their employees. In the state of New Jersey, overall for all employees across the board, we pay 92% of the cost of the health insurance for every one of our public employees, and among teachers, the overwhelming majority of teachers in the state of New Jersey pay nothing towards their health insurance premiums for full family medical, dental, and vision coverage and for benefits that do not just continue during employment but if they stay employed long enough, for benefits that continue for life. Now listen, maybe those promises were appropriate to make decades ago. They're unaffordable now, and so my ask was a 1 ½% contribution, and I was told that I was destroying public education in New Jersey to ask teachers to make that contribution, 1 ½% of salary, which for the average teacher who makes $55,000 in New Jersey, you're talking about $750 a year for full family medical coverage...

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