- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican Gov. Chris Christie sent a clear message to New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday that he has no plans to raise taxes days before delivering his annual budget address.

Christie spoke to hundreds of business owners, lawmakers and lobbyists in a keynote speech at the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce’s annual congressional dinner. The dinner caps the annual Walk to Washington event, which has brought hundreds of the state’s legislators, business owners and lobbyists to the nation’s capital.

Christie, who is seriously considering running for president, stuck mostly to local issues during his remarks. He touted gains in job growth and employment but said the state’s businesses and middle-class residents are still far too burdened by high taxes, and he appeared to distance himself from the impact, blaming the state’s Democratic legislature.

“I love when some members of the Legislature say, ‘Well, you see, we haven’t grown as many jobs as possible because the governor’s economic plan isn’t working.’ That might be true if anyone had implemented the governor’s economic plan,” he said.

“So I don’t know exactly whose economic plans have been implemented or not,” he said. “But what I can tell you is that I’m going to continue to take responsibility for fighting the fight to make this state more affordable.”

Thursday’s speech came as Christie prepares to deliver his budget address Tuesday and as Democratic lawmakers said they’ve been left in the dark about how he plans to address a pair of key issues: the state’s transportation trust fund, which faces insolvency by June 30, and its payments to the public pension system, which Christie cut last year after receipts fell short of projections.

The issues have been deeply divisive: Democrats have proposed raising the gas tax to deal with transportation and want the governor to make higher payments into the public pension plan, and Republicans balk at raising the gas tax and suggest public union employees might have to contribute more to retirement.

Christie did not directly address the transportation trust fund but said he and the Legislature took “first steps” to address pensions, alluding to 2011 legislation that settled the state’s payments before state revenues fell short last year.

He said he’d fight any efforts to raise taxes this year when he delivers his budget address.

“I want to make sure all of you understand tonight that we will continue to resist a tax system in New Jersey which is unfair to our citizens. We need to have tax fairness and competitiveness in this state,” he said, vowing to “protect that and fight for that over the course of the year to come.”

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