Is Chris Christie Really Conservative?

First let me state up front that I am a resident of New Jersey. I proudly voted for Christie because the alternative- another four years of Jon Corzine- was unacceptable. Christie is a 100% improvement for New Jersey over any Democrat in the state. But, making Christie a standard bearer for the Republican Party on the national stage would be rife with controversy. Simply put, Christie is way too moderate to appeal to conservative voters. While it is true that his bombastic speaking style would be a welcome respite from politicians who rely on teleprompters and talking points and sound bites, a closer analysis of some of Christie’s positions and actions would reveal that he falls squarely under moderate status on the political grid. I fully understand that he is a Republican Governor in a decidedly blue state. While it is true that there are pockets of conservatism in the state- along the Pennsylvania border in the northwest section and in Ocean County- the population of these areas cannot overcome the true political power bases in the heavily populated northeast metropolitan New York area and in Camden County in the southwest.

Look at Christie’s recent actions in the area of energy and environmental policy. Christie is on record as believing in global warming and, more specifically, that it is man made. While it is true that he has withdrawn from an interstate compact among northeast and middle Atlantic Governors regarding the reduction of CO2 emissions, it comes with a caveat. Namely, Christie has stated that New Jersey is on track to reduce its CO2 emissions beyond those goals set by the compact by 2020. And how can Christie lay claim to this assertion?

Christie clearly opposes offshore drilling off the coast on New Jersey. It is true that tourism centered around the state’s coastline is a multi-billion dollar business in the state. However, technology in offshore drilling techniques have advanced light years since drilling accidents were common years ago. The Gulf BP oil spill, lest we forget, was caused by unnecessary subcontractor short cuts. Provided the regulatory agencies actually do their job, the potential for high paying jobs in the energy sector in the state are reason enough to support offshore drilling. Additionally, the state is in a unique position in that they have existing energy transport infrastructure which places New Jersey at a advantage against other states on the eastern seaboard.

While we do not know if there are recoverable reserves of oil off New Jersey’s shores, we do know that if there are, exploiting them would make the country as a whole less reliant on foreign oil. While he opposes offshore drilling on environmental grounds, he actively supports the construction of offshore wind farms. Here, he has almost guaranteed their development with $100 million in guaranteed subsidies. True, the cost is not born by New Jersey taxpayers. But like the federal government, not everyone in New Jersey pays state income taxes. However, every citizen and business does use energy and the cost of those subsidies are born by every rate payer in the State. In effect, it is a hidden energy tax on each and every citizen and business in New Jersey.

While supporting offshore wind development, Christie has banned onshore wind power development on farmland and preserved open spaces. New Jersey is known as the Garden State for a reason. It produces arguably some of the best corn and tomatoes not to mention peaches, blueberries, cranberries and other crops. Additionally, urban sprawl in some areas have decreased open spaces. However, the state is in a unique position to make money while being a leader in wind power development. Small scale use of wind power on farms make sense to power the needs of the farm itself with any excess sold into the grid thus making farming a more lucrative business in New Jersey. Leasing land for private development of wind turbines on public land, if done correctly, can (1) increase New Jersey’s renewable energy production portfolio and (2) create a means of additional, unrealized revenue for the state.

Besides being on record of being a believer in the fallacy of global warming and its effect on the climate and more egregiously believing this is caused by man, Christie has also placed a ten-year moratorium on the construction of coal plants in New Jersey in favor of wind and solar development. Most recently, Christie has stood with Obama’s EPA- arguably one of the most liberally radical federal agencies- in opposing construction of a new power plant in eastern Pennsylvania. He does so out of environmental concerns, not commonsense economic cost/benefit analysis.

Likewise, on immigration reform, Christie’s views are suspect. As we know, thanks to Lou Dobbs, as federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Christie pursued only 13 known cases against illegal immigrants. Conversely, in Kansas with a considerably lower population, 597 cases were prosecuted in the same time period. Did Christie really believe that New Jersey had 584 less illegal immigrants than Kansas? During his campaign for Governor, Christie said that illegal immigration was a federal problem that demanded a federal solution and that he did not support state efforts to control illegal immigrants. But, if you are a federal prosecutor and illegal immigration is a federal issue, why the dearth of prosecutions? Because, as he stated during that campaign, lacking documentation is not a crime. He nuanced that it becomes a crime once the undocumented immigrant is deported and re-enters the country. These legal nuances do not resonate with conservatives and rightfully so.

Finally, there is Christie’s fiscal policies that are suspect. New Jersey’s Constitution requires a balanced budget. Running on a promise of no more accounting gimmickry to balance the budget, he has actually used accounting gimmickry to balance New Jersey’s budget. This is one reason why I personally do not support a federal Constitutional balanced budget amendment. These requirements do anything but balance a budget in the true sense of limiting actual spending (or less) to actual revenue. In fact, if one actually analyzes Christie’s first budget, he actually increased real spending by 6%. He closed not a single state agency nor laid off a single state worker. The following year, he touted the loss of 1,200 state workers in his budget out of a total payroll of over 75,000. In effect, the budget “cuts” have simply shifted the burden to municipalities and increases in property taxes in a state that almost leads the country in property tax rates. His solution? Cap property tax increases at 2% per year unless the citizens affected by those increases vote to raise rates higher.

Even in the area of education, New Jersey was recently relieved of the mandates of NCLB. But, it came at a cost- namely, capitulation to a federal, Obama-supported educational policy. He is an open supporter of Obama’s Race to the Top program and has received funds although it came at another cost. Namely, it cost Christie and New Jersey an able, and more conservative Education Commissioner in Brett Schundler.

Overall, Christie is not the prototypical conservative that would appeal to conservatives on the national stage. In many keys areas- tax policy (where he has yet to propose, let alone enact an across-the-board decrease), spending, expansion of bureaucracy, energy and environmental policy, immigration or even gun control (which I have not even touched upon)- there is too much “moderate” or somewhat “liberal” baggage in Christie’s political resume. Fully cognizant of the fact that he is a Republican Governor in a Blue State (the same claims being made by Romney) and that being a reason for not enacting a conservative agenda, it still is no excuse for some of his policy beliefs. For those still touting Chris Christie as a running mate for Romney, be careful what you wish for. In a comparative and relative sense, Christie makes for a better fit with New Jersey, not the United States.