Candidates for NJ Gov Clash in First TV Debate

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The three candidates for New Jersey governor met in their first debate last night and the state of the economy was front-and-center. Facing off on NJN television, Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, Republican challenger Chris Christie, and Independent candidate Chris Daggett offered sharply different proposals for pulling the state out of the current downturn.

Christie argued that taxes and state spending both have to be sharply curtailed, accusing Corzine of raising expenditures by 20 percent in his first two years in office.

CHRISTIE: That's what put us in the hole that we're in today, was that excessive spending when he first became governor and he raised taxes, $9 billion, and fees over the last four years.

REPORTER: But Corzine said his administration has made progress in reining in spending, largely by cutting over 8,000 workers from the state payroll. He said what the former US Attorney is proposing is unrealistic.

CORZINE: I will not take a no-tax pledge. It is the last resort; it is not taken off the table. You can't do that. You have a responsibility, a constitutional responsibility to balance the budget.

REPORTER: Daggett, like Christie, wants to slash many of the state's taxes, but he suggested Christie was being unrealistic if he thought he could balance the budget without raising any taxes or fees.

DAGGETT: It's easy to criticize when you have no plan of your own. And the bottom line is that you can't do it with smoke and mirrors. I'd like the tooth fairy to come also but the tooth fairy is not going to come and solve this problem.

REPORTER: Daggett wants to expand the state's sales tax. The three men have two more debates scheduled before the November 3rd election.