New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is taking on the teachers unions just as the state is fighting a $11 billion budget deficit.
“I think that New Jersey, because we have that odd off year election with Virginia, we have an opportunity to stand up and be the leaders across the country and showing that this can be done," Christie told CNBC.
In efforts to stem the budget crisis, Christie is proposing $820 million in school cuts which has sparked a backlash among teachers unions.
This comes at a time when a number of states are battling serious budget shortfalls. Christie, among a slew of Republicans winning traditionally-held Democratic offices, is New Jersey's first Republican governor in 12 years.
“They’ve been used to for 20 years getting their way on State Street,” he said. “Just in the last month or so, they’ve spent nearly $200 million in advertising attacking me. This is the way they get their way. They are the bullies of State Street. And I’m going to stand up to them because this is a fight we have to fight.”
During the Corzine administration, $70 billion in wealth left the state of New Jersey, said Christie. And over the last eight years, the state increased taxes 115 times even though revenues have been declining, he said.
“We are off the page when it comes to our taxes when you compare it to any other state,” he said. “We know what’s going on; people are leaving our state; they can’t afford to live here anymore. And I’m fighting to make my state affordable again.”
Meanwhile, school spending in New Jersey has increased on average $1.2-1.5 billion a year despite just 3 percent enrollment growth in the last eight years, he said.
“I’m a product of the public school’s in New Jersey,” he said. “I love the public schools, but the fact of the matter is, there is excess there; there is greed there that we simply can’t allow to move forward.”