Mason felt comfortable in front of Gov. Christie rather than backing him

Mason felt comfortable in front of Gov. Christie rather than backing him

By Agustin C. Torres/The Jersey Journal
May 18, 2010, 5:30AM

Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason, Democrat, made her points at Gov. Christie's "town meeting."

At yesterday's "invitation only" session with Gov. Chris Christie at the Hoboken Catholic Academy, most of the City Council members were on stage with the governor and Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Missing from the stage was Councilwoman Beth Mason who chose to stay in the audience. Christie is a Republican and Mason is a Democrat. Although almost all city officials on stage are Democrats, Mason thought it was inappropriate to join the others because it was tantamount to endorsing the governor's state budget and fiscal proposals.

"I didn't go on stage because I represent the people," she said. "I want to work with the governor as much as possible but I don't think I can go as far as a 2.5 percent cap on spending."

When the session was opened to the invited guests for questions for the governor, Mason took her opportunity to ask Christie why make large cuts in education, hospitals and mass transit? She argued that this hurts people who need these services most and called Christie's proposals hidden taxes on residents of Hudson County's urban centers, teachers and hospitals.

Christie said he's letting each municipality make the decision.

"Unlike (President Barack) Obama and the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, I can't print money," Christie said. "I can spend what's coming in and it's not coming in."

A contrast to the present 4 percent cap, the 2.5 percent on municipal, school and county property tax levies would be all-inclusive with no exceptions for rising health insurance or debt payments.

Mason also called Zimmer's backing of the cap "hypocritical." After Christie's visit, the councilwoman said the mayor and her directors should agree to the 2.5 percent cap on pay, rather than just letting city municipal workers follow the proposal.

"I agree with cuts and everyone has to cut its share, but what the governor proposes is way too far, and in the wrong areas," Mason said. As an example, of the state's fuzzy thinking, she points to mass transit.

"How can people face a 2.5 percent cap when NJ Transit fare hikes far exceeded the proposed cap," she said. Mason argues that people can't find jobs and the state is making it harder for them to find employment.

"What is government's role? We have to be competitive. Why reduce service? We should be increasing mass transit to get people out of cars and be less dependent on foreign oil."

"It's a commuter tax," she said. "And they're cutting education when many here (Hoboken) voted in favor of the school budget."

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