A largely friendly crowd of about 150 people turned out in a church gymnasium to hear Christie deliver a half-hour talk that trashed greedy public employee unions and state laws that handcuff local officials trying to control spending.
He then opened the floor to questions. A few were softballs, including the declaration by Clara Nebot of Bergenfield that Christie is "a god" to her relatives in Florida.
But borough teacher Rita Wilson, a Kearny resident, argued that if she were paid $3 an hour for the 30 children in her class, she’d be earning $83,000, and she makes nothing near that.
"You’re getting more than that if you include the cost of your benefits," Christie interrupted.
When Wilson, who has a master’s degree, said she was not being compensated for her education and experience, Christie said:
"Well, you know then that you don’t have to do it." Some in the audience applauded.
Christie said he would not have had to impose cuts to education if the teachers union had agreed to his call for a one-year salary freeze and a 1.5 percent increase in employee benefit contributions.
"Your union said that is the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state," Christie said. "That’s why the union has no credibility, stupid statements like that."
Surrounded by reporters after she spoke, Wilson said she was shaking from the encounter, and worried she might get in trouble for speaking out.
Christie has outlined a "toolkit" to address New Jersey’s property taxes, which on average are among the highest in the country. The centerpiece is a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 2.5 percent cap on the annual increase in the local property tax levy, which is the total amount of taxes collected each year from towns, school boards and county government.
"What it’s going to do is impose discipline on every level of government," Christie said, adding that 30 years of previous efforts by Trenton to control property taxes failed.
Sounds like New Jersey is looking towards its own Prop 13, and has a governor who isn't beholden to the guardians of the status quo. Perhaps there's hope out there.