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Christie Says Goal Is to End Budget Deficits by 2014

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his goal is to erase the state’s chronic budget deficits by the end of his first term.

Christie, a Republican who took office in January, spoke to Bloomberg News after a speech to business leaders in Newark that was closed to the press. The governor declined to say how he would end the deficits.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Christie said. “It’s my goal. It’s aspirational.”

Christie, 48, is campaigning to fix the finances of a state that has battled nine straight deficits. He cut more than $10 billion of spending to help close a $10.7 billion deficit without raising taxes in his budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. He faces a deficit of as much as $10.5 billion next fiscal year, the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services estimated in July.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald said Christie’s moves to reduce aid to schools and towns by $1.2 billion and skip the state’s $3 billion pension payment in his current budget didn’t address recurring shortfalls.

Targeted Tax Cuts

Greenwald, a Democrat from Cherry Hill, is one of several sponsors of a jobs-creation package the party proposed last week. The lawmaker also said the governor should have extended a tax surcharge on the state’s highest earners.

“What we need is this approach that helps working-class New Jerseyans and the businesses that employ them with targeted and productive tax cuts and incentives that will grow jobs and stimulate the economy,” Greenwald said in an e-mail statement.

Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey and chairman of a public-private partnership called Choose New Jersey, said balancing the budget would help convince the business community that state finances are stable and they won’t face more tax increases.

“New Jersey doesn’t seem to have its house in order as far as its financials, and businesses see the steps he’s taking right now to reduce and eliminate deficits,” Bone said of Christie. “It has a signal value.”

Businesses are pleased to have a governor talking about efforts to keep them here and help them prosper, rather than just viewing them as a source of tax revenue, said Kurus Elavia, chief executive officer of Newark-based Gateway Group One, which provides private security guards to area airports.

“Job growth is ultimately a private initiative, and finally we have someone to represent that,” Elavia said. “He’s on the right track. He needs the three years and probably more.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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