Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has run alongside Republican Gov. Chris Christie twice and until recently, declined to flout him on high-profile policy issues. But she says nobody is "more different from Chris Christie than his lieutenant governor."
As she tries to convince Republican voters in this year's gubernatorial election of that, Guadagno told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she would scrap Christie's planned $300 million statehouse renovation project and proposed that New Jersey voters be able to elect the state's top law enforcement official to rebuild lost trust in government.
"We're completely different in style. Plainly we're completely different how we approach problems in New Jersey," she said of Christie, citing the statehouse renovation project and last year's deal to raise the state's gas tax by 23 cents while cutting other taxes.
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She stopped short of saying she would repeal the gas tax, but said she would address tax policies in an upcoming announcement.
Guadagno is a Republican in a Democrat-leaning state who served as the top deputy to an unpopular incumbent, running in the same party as President Donald Trump, who lost the state and already has negative job-approval ratings.
The proposals take aim at Christie, who has so far not endorsed anyone in the primary, and center on the idea of auditing Trenton including selling off surplus state property. The only example she pointed to, though, was an empty lot in Burlington County.
As examples of waste and abuse, Guadagno cited reports that road construction in the state could cost up to $2 million a mile (which she said should have been studied further before enacting the gas-tax hike) and the governor's statehouse renovation.
Competition in the June primary for Guadagno, the leading GOP candidate in a recent poll, includes Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli.
Christie has said before his relationship with Guadagno is fine and he's not endorsing because of the competitive primary.
Ciattarelli, who is calling for a "new direction" has unveiled proposals including overhauling school funding by cutting some state aide to ``overfunded'' districts and changing the tax code by raising the retirement income tax exclusion, among other ideas.
Guadagno compared the statehouse project to the "Palace of Versailles" and said if the project is needed, money should be raised through charitable giving. Christie says the financing would come through the state's Economic Development Authority.
New Jersey is one of five states where the governor appoints the attorney general, and changing that would require a ballot question approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature to change the state's constitution. Guadagno said the idea came to her from the campaign trail, where voters told her they lost faith in government.
She said the idea has nothing to do with the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal that saw two former allies of the governor convicted in the political payback scheme. The governor hasn't been charged and denies wrongdoing.
"My concern here is people in New Jersey do not trust their public officials, and we have a serious lack of trust over the last couple of years," she said.
"A governor who is willing to limit her own power and give that power over to someone who will be independent who only answers to the taxpayer of New Jersey would send a very large signal to the people of New Jersey they can begin to trust their government again."