Chris Christie will leave office in a few short months; the vitriol from New Jerseyans in thinking about Christie’s tenure is not undeserved. The Bridgegate scandal, frolicking on the beach during a budget shutdown (and lying about it) and the dereliction of duty to state while building his national image — and Donald Trump’s — is not a legacy that will soon be forgotten.
But for the business community, Christie’s accomplishments are tangible and make you wonder what could have been had he not let petty vindictiveness and gamesmanship derail a promising career.
It’s been a long eight years, so here’s a reminder of what Christie brought to the table as he prepares to leave.
Jobs. Christie took office in the throes of the subprime swoon, and while the Garden State continues to lag the national economy, Christie’s aggressive tone on economic incentives and his push to reverse “brain drain” with a focus on eds and meds — the merger that gave the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to Rutgers is the best example — lays the groundwork for the state to have the kinds of high-paying jobs needed to reverse its economic stagnation.
Property taxes. He definitely didn’t solve this one, but by instituting a 2 percent cap on local property taxes, Christie helped tame the tiger that was running rampant through New Jersey’s towns. He limited pay raises for emergency responders and got more towns to think about the savings of consolidation — an important feat in a tiny state with more than 550 municipalities.
Gas tax. No one wants to pay more at the pump, but the broken Transportation Trust Fund needed refueling and Christie had the guts — eventually — to increase the tax to shore up our highways.
Infrastructure. The single biggest threat to New Jersey’s ports was the beautiful, but low-hanging, Bayonne Bridge, which prevented the largest container ships from accessing the area. Rather than allow that traffic to dock further south, this project’s completion will ensure the health of the port for years to come.
Xanadu. Could this finally get done? If it does, the megamall, now known as American Dream, will have Christie to thank. Though he once called it the “ugliest damn building” in America, work on the retail and entertainment complex is again moving quickly ahead. We’re still not sure this project is a success in a world of increasing e-commerce, but give him credit for his vision here.
Perhaps his chief accomplishment was reining in a Democratic senate and assembly that had many, many funding priorities that Christie vetoed. Now, with Phil Murphy bringing a wish list the length of the Turnpike, the state may soon miss Christie and his willingness to butt heads with the opposition party to prioritize limited budgets.