05.24.2011 1

Gov. Chris Christie Appears to Be Shrinking and Not “Growing” in Office

By Kevin Mooney — Is Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey shrinking or growing in office?

Some explanation is in order before a definitive answer can be given.

Whenever Republicans gravitate toward big government polices during their time in office, as they tend to do especially in New Jersey they are said to have “grown.” That is to say, they have become more enlightened in the eyes of the media and academia. There are a few asterisks here that right-thinking people should also consider when digesting the governor’s record, but there is also good reason to view Christie as someone who is serious about restoring constitutional limits.

If so, the biggest beneficiary here would be New Jersey’s beleaguered taxpayers who have labored under “cap and trade” policies implemented by Christie’s predecessor. The law, which became effective in 2008, calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to where they were in 1990 “no later” than 2020. It further requires that emissions not exceed 80 percent of their 2006 levels “no later” than 2050.

But with the collapse of “cap and trade” on Capitol Hill, states that previously signed up for regional greenhouse gas restriction agreements in lieu of federal action are now reconsidering. There is a one-two punch at work here. The appetite for intrusive regulation has receded with the economy in recession and the public cynicism toward alarmist claims has grown in the aftermath of “climategate.”

New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez, a Republican, has moved aggressively to cut environmental regulations and has resisted moving her state into Western Climate Change Initiative (WCCI). Most recently, the New Hampshire state legislature took action to modify its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers the Northeast. State lawmakers are still considering a complete withdrawal. New Jersey could be next.

Although Christie did not make environmental regulations a central theme of his campaign, and even express openness toward renewable initiatives, his movement in the direction of free market thinking is unmistakable.

On March 11, the governor pulled New Jersey out of a multistate lawsuit aimed at curbing greenhouse emissions from power plants, and on March 24, he said he might end the state’s cap-and-trade program. A key turning point came during a town hall meeting last year when Christie was asked about scientific date that has been used to underpin anti-industry regulation.

His full comments here are as follows: “Well I’ll tell you something,” he said. “I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I’m skeptical — I’m skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we’re going to need more science to prove something one way or the other. But you know — ‘cause I’ve seen arguments on both sides of it that at time — like I’ll watch something about man-made global warming, and I go wow, that’s fairly convincing. And then, I’ll go out and watch the other side of the argument, and I go huh, that’s fairly convincing too. So, I go to be honest with you, I don’t know. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can’t figure this stuff out. But I would say at this point, that has to be proven, and I’m a little skeptical about it. Thank you.”

Almost every Republican candidate for president in 2012 has a history of embracing green policies at odds with free market principles. If Christie does have national ambitions, this is one sure way for him to connect with the conservative faithful.

Already, a handful of conservative leaning state lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal NJ’s cap and trade. Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) and Alison Littell McHose (R-24) are leading the charge for A 3147 on the Assembly side. They are now joined in this effort by Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) and Sen. Steven Oroho (R-24), who have introduced mirroring legislation in the upper chamber.

But New Jersey does have a long and progressive history that figures into the equation. A key figure here is Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, who previously served as the New Jersey environmental commissioner under former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. She was a major driving force behind the regulations Christie now says he wants to unwind. Furthermore, there were three House Republicans in NJ who voted to pass the federal “cap and trade” law. That’s a lot of baggage for one state.

Some conservatives expressed dismay when Christie decided to meet recently with the New Jersey Environmental Federation. But Christie is not living in red state America. What is more remarkable about his tenure so far is that he is pushing fiscal reforms in an area of the country where it would normally be unthinkable.

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.

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