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Governor Chris Christie: A Conversation with High School Students

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Published on Mar 31, 2010

Governor Chris Christie has a question and answer session with Montclair High School's Advance Placement Government and Politics Class in Montclair, N.J. on Tuesday, March 30, 2010. (Partial Transcript Below)

Question: Parents who can afford it are going to gravitate towards private institutions. Do you think that this will increase the achievement gap between the wealthy who can afford these private institutions and the not-so wealthy who cannot?
Governor Christie: No, I don't. First of all I disagree with your premise that a one-year cut in funding to public schools is going to make parents rush to send their kids to private school. I went to public school. I went to Livingston High School. My parents, who were middle class, if they had a one-year cut in funding where teachers got laid off, they wouldn't be happy about it, but they wouldn't say OK, I'm sending you to private school, and I suspect that for most of you here, whether your parents are doing very well or not so well, or even for kids in other school districts, you're not going to see that happen off of one year, and remember this too: this wasn't my choice at the end of the day. I take responsibility because I'm the Governor and I have to make the decisions, but understand why this happened: last year we got a billion dollars, billion 57 million in federal funding from the President, one shot. He said not recurring. You can spend it for this one year because the economy's so tough. We knew it wasn't coming back, and he said spend it in two years. Don't spend it all in one year so that you don't have a situation like we have now where the funding drops off huge. Governor Corzine decided to spend it all in one year, spent all billion 57 million last year. So this year I walk into a hole of a billion 57 million, so that actually the state portion of aid to K-to-12 education is up $230 million this year, because the total cut is 820 million, so just do the math. We lost a billion 57 million. The cut this year is 820 million, so it's a $237 million increase that came out of state tax revenue we're putting towards K-to-12 education. That doesn't make it any easier, but it makes it a little bit better, and so I don't believe that will happen and I don't believe this is permanent. As the economy gets better more money will come into the state and we'll have more funding and I'll be able to put more funding into K-to-12 education, but this is the mess I was left with, and you're not going to hear me complain about it and I'll take responsibility for making the decisions, but I don't believe it will lead to what your question fears it will. If we had five or six years of this kind of sustained problem, maybe so, but I don't think one year.

Question: Education is one of the things worth going into debt.
Governor Christie: I'm not allowed to go into debt. You need to understand that, right? I have a constitutional obligation to have a balanced budget. I don't have the opportunity to do what President Obama is doing or President Bush did, which is to run deficits. I don't have the ability to do that. I might agree with you if I had the ability to run deficits even in the short term, but I don't have that ability to do it. Every year the governor has a constitutional obligation to file a balanced budget, and so this is not about debt versus something else, and by the way the reason it won't happen year after year is because there's no one in the leadership of government either in the executive branch with me or in the legislative branch who are saying we think this is the direction we should go in. Everything you've heard is we don't want to do this but I have to file a balanced budget, and I don't have any choice, and so the question is do you continue to do one-shot gimmicks that will just put off this day, like the one billion did, or do you say OK, we have to suck it up, we have to take our medicine, and then once we do and the economy improves we'll have more money, because think about it this way: right now we have 9.8% of our people unemployed in New Jersey. It's really more than that because a lot of people who get off of unemployment aren't seeking work any longer because they're discouraged. The number's higher than 10% but let's use the 10% number. If we were to take that number and move it from 10 to 5% because of a growing economy that 5% of people would be paying income taxes rather than drawing taxes out of the unemployment fund. That, without raising taxes or doing anything else would increase the amount of money we have to give to schools, and that's the way we fix this problem. But I don't have the ability to run debt. I can't. The President can. I can't, so that's why it's not a floodgate situation because--...

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