Gov. Chris Christie had some harsh words Thursday for “Corzine Democrats” during a visit to Long Beach Island as part of his “Endless Summer of Tax Relief: A Conversation at the Jersey Shore” series.

“The fear on taxes is that the Democrats are going back to the old taxes. They’re morphing right before your eyes into Corzine Democrats, and that’s the worst kind of Democrat to be,” Christie said. “They don’t want to cut your taxes. They think if they put it off, you’ll forget.”

Just before 4 p.m. Thursday, the governor arrived at Bayview Park in the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Township to a cheering crowd of about 300 people. Christie held a similar event Wednesday afternoon in Ocean City.

Local issues also were on Thursday’s agenda. Rick Bushnell, president of ReClam the Bay, a grass-roots organization working to repopulate Barnegat Bay with clams, told Christie that the estuary should be an “aquaculture haven.”

Bushnell said one thing that is lacking in the administration’s 10-point plan to save Barnegat Bay is an economic revitalization of the estuary.

Christie said he is all ears regarding the idea because there are options for success.

“I’ve really focused on the ecological aspects because we can’t let the bay die. You’re right — we’re focused almost exclusively on ecological issues. If we can turn this into an economic home run for the region, that would be great,” Christie told Bushnell.

After the event, Bushnell said hundreds of people made a living on the bay in the past from third-, fourth- and fifth-generation families.

“As the health of the bay declined, the state didn’t do anything to save jobs. They completely ignore aquaculture in Barnegat Bay,” he said.

In sweltering heat, Christie shook hands with the crowd before finding shade underneath the park’s pavilion overlooking the bay.

For about 20 minutes, he spoke about tax cuts and relief that he said his administration is working to bring to taxpayers.

Another issue germane to Long Beach Island that Christie spoke about was municipal consolidation. When asked about consolidation of municipalities by a member of the public, he said he would not force the merging of towns on Long Beach Island from Trenton.

LBI has six towns and five police departments, and consolidation has been a topic of discussion for years.

“I know some people in the audience would say to make LBI one huge town. But what it comes down to is we will provide incentive to those who do consolidate,” he said.

He suggested that municipalities on the island continue to share services to save money.

The public must decide for itself what to do about consolidation, and he trusts them, Christie said.

Shortly after the event, state Senate Democrats issued a statement on Christie’s tax-relief series, stating that the governor ignores his failed economic record. In the statement, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said Christie’s “beachfront meetings would be more accurately called ‘an endless summer of irresponsible rhetoric.’”

The Democrats’ statement also said property taxes have increased by 20 percent as a direct result of the governor’s policies.

In the years after Gov. Jim McGreevey’s tenure and when Gov. Jon S. Corzine came into office, New Jersey had $70 billion of wealth leave the state to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida, Christie said. There is too much debt, taxes and government on top of our citizens, he told the crowd.

“All of you have been waiting for more than a decade for taxes to be reduced. For eight years, taxes were raised 115 times. That’s a tax increase every 25 days that the state reached in your pocket,” he said.

State Sen. Chris Connors and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, both R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, attended the event, and Christie reminded the crowd that the local legislators want tax cuts.

“You don’t need to work on Connors over here. He’s voting for a tax cut. And you don’t need to work on DiAnne Gove because she’s voting for a tax cut, too,” he said.

After the event, Connors said he is on board with a tax cut for residents and was pleased that Christie visited Long Beach Island.

“He connects with the audience, and he injects a great vibe,” Connors said.

When Christie turned the microphone over to the audience, he warned them to raise their hands and not scream out questions. The simple rule is that if you give it, you’re getting it back, he said.

“Last week, when I was in Manasquan, a man rode past in a boat and screamed something nasty like the man on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk. The difference last week was I had been on vacation so I was relaxed. I waved to him with all five fingers,” he said, and the crowd laughed.

As Christie left the pavilion and prepared to climb into a black SUV, he shook the hand of teenager Michael Benoit, whose mother is a teacher.

Benoit grilled the governor about the increase in payments to his mother’s benefits and pension.

“My mother has to pay 50 percent of her benefits now,” Benoit said to Christie.

Christie told Benoit that his mother is not paying 50 percent of her benefits.

“She’s getting a pension that no one in the private sector has. We can’t have the taxpayers pay it all anymore,” Christie told Benoit.

Contact Donna Weaver:

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