The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business lobby that has been advocating against government regulation and taxation since 1911. One would think that a pro-business lobby and a pro-business Governor would be natural allies.
At first blush, this seemed to be the case. Almost every Republican in the State who spoke in favor of allowing the Millionaires Tax to expire repeated information from the Chamber. The Chamber commissioned a Boston College study that has been widely cited as evidence that the Millionaires Tax caused New Jersey to lose $70 billion in wealth (in point of fact, the study found nothing of the kind, as discussed in an earlier posting).
However, there has been a sizable rift between the Chamber and the Governor since the Governor took office in January. The Governor felt that the Chamber in general, and Chamber President Joan Verplanck in particular, had distanced themselves from Christie during the campaign, essentially betting that Governor Corzine would win re-election. When Christie won, it was payback time.
So the Governor boycotted the Chamber’s annual train ride to Washington, D.C., an event which Governors past attended regularly. And Christie made it known to business leaders throughout the State that that he was unwilling to cooperate with the Chamber so long as Verplanck remained President. A post the 64 year old Verplanck has held for the past 15 years.
And so, yesterday, Verplanck announced her resignation.
State Senator Joseph Kyrillos, former chairman of Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaign and now a key Christie advisor, is quoted as saying:
“The various groups have gotten the message that they need to be full partners in making New Jersey competitive again. The Chamber and all business groups in this State need to re-brand and reinvent themselves.”
So forcing the resignation of the long-standing President of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce was done to send a message. It’s not enough to agree with, support and promote the Governor’s agenda. You have to be a “full partner.”
When it comes to Chris Christie, either you’re in or you’re out. As George W. Bush once said, “Either you’re with us or agin us.” And that’s how Chris Christie treats his allies.
As I write this, certain Republicans in the Senate and Assembly are deciding whether or not to support the compromise budget the Governor and the Democrats have reached. Republican Senator Michael Warren has said he does not support the budget. Republican Assemblyman Patrick Carroll and Republican Assemblywoman Alison Little McHose have announced plans to vote against the budget. And the Governor needs every Republican legislator to vote for the budget in order for it to pass.
Those three Republicans may be joining Joan Verplanck at some local Trenton watering hole in the very near future ruing the day they ever dared cross Chris Christie.
Got the message?