TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie's winning streak remains intact: State lawmakers have still yet to override one of his vetoes.
The Democratic-controlled state Assembly today attempted to override the Republican governor's veto of a bill that would require the state to issue new annual reports on its debt obligations — a measure nearly every Republican member of the lower house voted for in March.
But the attempt fell nine votes short of the 54 needed for an override to pass. Forty-five lawmakers — including three Republicans — voted yes, five voted no, 23 abstained, and seven didn't vote.
Many Republicans reversed course today after the Christie administration released a warning hours before the vote saying the state could face legal action if the measure went through.
Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), the bill's main sponsor, said he was shocked.
"This bill would have little cost, if any, to the state and would simple require the executive branch to report information that they already collect in the annual state debt report," Singleton said in a statement. "I'm disappointed that Assembly Republicans have changed their mind and no longer feel the need to gain a concise picture of our long-term debt load."
Democrats have tried dozens of times to override one of Christie's vetoes since he took office in 2010, but all efforts have failed.
An override could be embarrassing for Christie, a potential 2016 presidential contender, showing a sign of weakening power.
This bill (A961) wasn't controversial when it passed 77-0 in the Assembly and 40-0 in the state Senate earlier this year.
But it does seek more detailed information about the state's debt, and New Jersey's financial health could be an issue if Christie seeks the White House. The state is $40 billion in debt, with only Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Connecticut the only states carrying more per-capita. New Jersey has also suffered two credit rating downgrades in recent months.
In his Sept. 11 veto message, Christie said the bill would force a state commission "to produce a speculative report that would be of little value in making future debt determinations, but may adversely and erroneously affect the state's bond rating."
Then, as the Assembly prepared to vote on the override today, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) — a Christie ally — said the governor's administration warned that the state could face action from the federal Securities and Exchange Commission if they put the debt information online, as well as lawsuits from bond holders.
Republican leaders asked to delay the vote.
"I think we missed something," Bramnick said. "I think we need some leeway and some time to have a vote on an override that reflects all the information. I'm not defending the administration. Let's give it some review."
Democrats were outraged, saying Christie didn't mention such a risk in his veto message last month.
"I'm not saying it's not true," Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said. "I'm saying I find it highly unlikely. I would think somebody would have called us."
"I'm used to disrespect from the front office," Greenwald added.
Christie's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment today.
Should the Assembly's attempt had been successful, the state Senate still would have had to approve the override for it to take effect.