Former Gov. Chris Christie ripped Gov. Phil Murphy’s economic priorities during the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying Murphy prioritized big businesses over small businesses — and public workers above everyone else.
Christie was speaking Tuesday morning during a Zoom press briefing to discuss the New Jersey 30-Day Fund he founded with his wife, Mary Pat Christie. Shortly after discussing how the fund had now helped 100 small businesses with forgivable loans of $3,000, he criticized Murphy for not doing more to help the type of businesses the Christies are aiming to help: Main Street mom-and-pop shops.
Christie said the way Murphy only allowed big box stores to remain open was a huge mistake.
“Large businesses benefited because of the non-logical type of thought in terms of what you were going to allow to remain open,” he said. “So, you allow Walmart to remain open, Target to remain open and a Kmart to remain open because they sell food. But, once you go in there, you can buy whatever you want.”
Christie said specialty stores — ones that only sell items such as electronics, clothing or appliances — were hurt by those policies.
“So, how is it stronger and fairer to allow small businesses to suffer the way we have and say that somehow Walmart knows how to allow people to shop safely and socially distanced, but the local appliance store does not,” he said. “That’s never made any sense to me. It continues to make no sense to me.”
Christie also criticized Murphy for putting state workers above all others, calling it a conscious choice.
“These decisions do not happen by accident,” he said. “They are absolutely consciously made as to where you put resources and where you do not put resources, or you put fewer resources.”
Christie said it’s a matter of priorities.
“(The governor) decided to put our priorities in the public sector rather than the private sector,” he said. “It’s very simple. In the end, this has not been shared sacrifice. It just hasn’t. State workers — God bless them for doing what they’re doing — but there were almost no furloughs until recently. There were no layoffs at all.
“The government decided that they were going to prioritize spending the money we had on public-sector workers. That’s a decision. That’s a policy decision that was made.”
Alyana Alfaro, a spokesperson for Murphy, defended the governor’s actions.
“Gov. Murphy enjoys broad public support precisely because he’s put public health ahead of politics during the pandemic,” she said. “He’s refused to put people at risk by opening up businesses too quickly, and has based his decisions on science and data, making tough calls that have made New Jersey one of the few states on track to contain COVID-19.”
Alfaro also questioned Christie’s record with small businesses.
“Gov. Christie should be the last person to talk about supporting small businesses, given his support for lavish corporate tax incentives that helped well-connected insiders and corporate players enrich themselves at the expense of our small business owners,” she said. “The former governor also seems to think that laying off middle-class workers providing core services somehow benefits New Jersey families, when, in fact, the opposite is true.”
Christie said more money should have gone to Economic Development Authority programs to support small business.
The EDA in the process of distributing a second round of emergency grants — a $50 million program that allows a maximum $10,000 grant. The program is oversubscribed. Christie said the programs could have been more robust.
“There was a bias and a prejudice against these small businesses, and we’re going to be paying the price for a long time to come because they are the backbone of this state,” Christie said. “The EDA didn’t do what they needed to do, and the policies led to many small businesses being hurt — and many of them will never reopen.”
Christie said he hopes his 30-Day Fund — which has raised approximately $800,000 — can help.
“What we’re hoping to do — in our small way — is be able to help some of those businesses that were treated very, very poorly by those policies,” he said.
Christie said the impact of these decisions will be felt for years to come.
“The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any thought about the combined hit of the policies that we are enforcing — many of these (forcing) small businesses to remain closed and putting them at a tremendous disadvantage of big business — combined with the outsized emphasis on public sector support,” he said.
Read more from ROI-NJ:
- Christie fund gives money to small businesses — and valuable experience to college students
- Christies to launch N.J. Fund, which will give forgivable loans to small businesses in N.J.