Editor: Governor, would you summarize the highlights of your career for our readers?
Christie: Following my undergraduate graduation from the University of Delaware and the Seton Hall University School of Law, I joined a Cranford law firm and became a partner. I was elected a Freeholder in Morris County, serving as Director of the Board in 1997.
I had the honor of being named U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey in 2002. As the chief federal law enforcement officer in New Jersey, I focused on political corruption, corporate crime, human trafficking, gangs, terrorism and polluters. One of my proudest moments as U.S. Attorney was when I led the team that thwarted the terrorists' plans to attack our military men and women at Fort Dix. I left the U.S. Attorney's office in December 2008 and became New Jersey's 55th Governor in January of this year.
Editor: What is your first priority as governor?
Christie: My first priority as governor is to rebuild New Jersey's economy by creating jobs and fueling economic growth, both by attracting new business as well as assisting in the maintenance and expansion of existing businesses. One significant way to do that is by reforming state government. Other priorities of my administration will be getting control of the budget, making renewable energy a priority, establishing consistent and effective policies regarding the environment, reducing the cost of healthcare and improving higher education.
Editor: What do you think needs to be done to foster economic growth in your state?
Christie: To allow New Jersey to better compete with other states, both the executive and legislative branches of the state government believe that the extensive system of administrative rules and regulation, promulgated by state agencies needs to be revised and improved. New Jersey's regulatory system is regarded as being unpredictable, overly complicated and often contradictory.
I believe that a new approach to administrative rulemaking should be implemented to ensure that the substantive and procedural requirements for rules and regulations are consistent with broader state policy goals; are consistent with the intent of the legislation under which they are promulgated where appropriate; rely upon sound science or other technical data or information; and protect and promote the public interest, including the urgent need to promote economic development and encourage private-sector job creation.
Our state government should not view the success of its regulatory framework through the prism of how many pages of complex paperwork it imposes on entrepreneurs and small business owners, or by the dollar amounts of the fines and fees it collects from people who cannot navigate the intricacies of that system. The success of our regulatory system should rightly be measured by how well it achieves compliance with our state policy goals. In fact, among the very first of my executive orders as governor was to commission the Red Tape Review Group.
Editor: What is the Red Tape Review Group?
Christie : The bi-partisan Red Tape Review Group, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, was charged with reviewing all pending and proposed rules and regulations, as well as all operative executive orders from previous administrations, assessing their effects on New Jersey's economy, and determining whether their burdens on business and workers outweigh their intended benefits.
The overarching theme is that there is a great need for the application of common sense in rulemaking and rule enforcement and that state government must learn to operate in a user-friendly manner. New Jersey must achieve a better balance between nurturing free enterprise and protecting the public. It is critical that these economic goals are accomplished while maintaining public health, environment, and safety standards. Administrative rules need to be consistent and understandable and decisions timely.
Editor: What are some of the long-term recommendations of the group?
Christie: To continue to streamline and more effectively coordinate services that impact economic growth and job creation, the Red Tape Review Group made a number of long-term legislative, regulatory and policy recommendations. They includeimproving and expediting the rulemaking process so that state agencies are permitted to adopt changes to proposed administrative rules based on public comment; reforming the administrative adjudications system by using oral initial decisions, checklist decisions, and authorizing agencies to delegate final authority; and revising the current sunset law from five to three years.Other recommendations includegiving entities the ability to combat unfunded mandates; following "common sense principles," and creating a consistent and timely review of regulation and rule effectiveness.
Editor: What is the New Jersey Partnership for Action?
Christie: The New Jersey Partnership for Action is a new agency within the Department of State to consolidate the state's fragmented economic development activities. It will serve as a one-stop shop for new businesses to make opening in or relocating to New Jersey easier. This agency will walk new companies through the regulatory process and assist with tax incentives to make the process more efficient. By creating these public-private partnerships to implement economic growth strategies, New Jersey will more successfully foster private sector job growth. The Partnership, through three interconnected and highly focused organizational elements, Choose New Jersey, Government Process Solutions, and the Economic Development Authority, will accomplish the goals of developing pro-growth policies and assisting businesses in navigating state government and programs.
Choose New Jersey, a privately funded, not-for-profit corporation, will help position New Jersey as a world-class leader in the competitive global market, creating a prosperous and vibrant economy for the state and its citizens by effectively leveraging its diverse resource base and utilizing its reputation for innovation. It will be led by a CEO who will promote New Jersey to existing and new businesses, encourage economic growth and opportunity, and spearhead promotional activities to aggressively market New Jersey as a business destination.
Government Process Solutions, reporting directly to the Lt. Governor, will consist of a team of business liaison representatives who will bring a customer service approach to coordination and navigation across state and local government agencies for businesses looking to remain, expand or locate in New Jersey.
The Economic Development Authority will continue in its role as the financing component for New Jersey job growth - overseeing many of New Jersey's programs that support the business community. Through financial programs that provide access to capital in partnership with banks throughout New Jersey, EDA organizes incentive programs aimed at attracting new business and supporting the retention of our existing employers. The EDA will act as the state's "bank for business" by providing support to the Partnership for Action with the state's financing and incentive resources to leverage New Jersey's strategic advantages.
Editor: New Jersey was once a leader in manufacturing, but the industries that once made New Jersey a hub of manufacturing no longer exist. As the country and the rest of the world make renewable energy a priority and the source of new manufacturing jobs, how will you attract renewable energy manufacturers?
Christie: Energy as an industry is an opportunity to recover the good-paying, middle-class manufacturing jobs. New Jersey has an opportunity and the ability to once again become a leader of industry. To make New Jersey a magnet for renewable energy manufacturers, during the next four years, we shall incentivize energy manufacturing with tax credits to create higher-paying clean energy production jobs. We will encourage solar farms by making it a permitted land use of New Jersey farmland, which now can be used not only for agriculture, but so much more.
Editor: One of your other priorities is to get control of the budget. What is the challenge, and do you have a plan of action to address it?
Christie: The challenge is that taxpayer dollars are being wasted on ineffective programs while priority programs, such as energy or the environment, which have a positive impact on the quality of life of New Jersey families, remain underfunded. We are working to reduce spending and take control of New Jersey's priorities by budgeting for the future, cutting wasteful spending and ensuring that every dollar counts. Our objectives include prioritizing the state's funding commitment, establishing and empowering fiscal watchdogs, and implementing simple, responsible budget practices. Through these tactics, we can reduce the budget deficit and get control of the budget once again.
Editor: Protecting New Jersey's environment also will create jobs. What plans do you have to accomplish that goal?
Christie: In the past, the state of New Jersey has been unable to establish consistent and effective policies to deliver both environmental and economic progress. Significant changes in policies and practices are urgently needed to accelerate improvements to the environment, remove unnecessary obstacles to economic growth, and more effectively manage limited fiscal and human resources.
We will make New Jersey competitive and attractive to business investment once again, while at the same time we can improve air and water quality, incentivize the cleanup of contaminated sites, and better manage the state's natural resources. To make New Jersey the leader in renewable energy, we need to rededicate the Department of Environmental Protection to its core mission. We will protect New Jersey's natural resources and open spaces by strongly enforcing clean water and ocean pollution laws. We also will prioritize the efficient remediation of contaminated sites and streamline the permitting process.
Editor: Healthcare certainly has been in the news as of late. How will you address the cost of health insurance in New Jersey?
Christie: New Jerseyans are hurting during these tough economic times, and the rising cost of health insurance is placing an increasingly heavy burden on families throughout the state. The soaring costs of health insurance are preventing individuals without insurance from being able to afford quality coverage.
We are pursuing four steps to increase coverage and improve the quality of healthcare for New Jerseyans. We will increase the number of affordable health insurance options through increased competition; emphasize early detection and preventive care; eliminate the tax on individual and small group premiums; and fight fraud, waste, and abuse in the healthcare and health insurance systems.
Editor: A key to a vibrant economy is an educated work force. How will you improve higher education?
Christie: New Jersey educates significantly fewer students in four-year public institutions than do states of comparable size, and its net out-migration of college students is the highest in the nation. It is so high that New Jersey constitutes a third of all net out-migration in the nation.
The development of New Jersey's educational institutions in regard to academic programs, research activities, and partnerships with the business community has lagged behind the nation. These circumstances have hobbled New Jersey, interfering with the development of a first-rate home-grown workforce. Additionally, this has dampened the institutions' ability to attract external funding to the state and thus sent billions of education dollars to competitor states.
We want to keep New Jersey students in New Jersey by improving the quality of higher education in New Jersey. We believe that quality teachers lead to quality education and higher education. Our plan is to encourage New Jerseyans to attend institutions of higher education in the state and to link those institutions with in-state employers who offer quality jobs.