Transcript: Diane Sawyer Interviews New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie


And the fact is we have to make government smaller and we have to make it smarter, and we have to rein in the costs of benefits and pensions that are bankrupting our state. Those are the things that are eating away at the edge of the middle class -- not what I'm doing.

DIANE SAWYER: But if good teachers come to you and say, "A smaller classroom is a great thing for good teaching. And I'm a good teacher and I've come to you and said this." And if you simply tax -- and I know how you feel about the businesses that are affected, take them out of it -- just tax people who make a whole lot of money a little bit more and you can keep the class size the same.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, first--

DIANE SAWYER: Wouldn't you do that? Is that not a tradeoff?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, if I could do it I might consider it. But it won't, because the tax they're talking about-- First of all, the tax they're talking about is the one that Gov. Cuomo's getting rid of in New York, the millionaire's tax, for the same reason that I don't want it back. Because the last time we had it in 2009, 50 percent of the filers on that tax were small business owners, were people who were in employing people in New Jersey. And it would only raise about $600 million. We're not talking about a tax that would solve all of the problems that these folks are talking about.

The fact is-- The fact is that, you know, we have a pension system that's $54 billion under funded, a public sector health benefit system that's $67 billion under funded because our benefits are out of whack to public employees. We need to have everybody be part of the sacrifice, not just some people.

And, you know, the folks from the public sector unions believe they should be exempted from what's happened in the recession. The state supreme court's gonna hear it and we'll see what happens. But I'll tell you this, I don't know that the state supreme court-- No one elected them. And I don't know that the state supreme court should be able to order how we spend and how we tax. It seems to me under the constitution that that's what you elect a governor and a legislature for. But we'll see what happens.

DIANE SAWYER: I want to ask a question about tenure because those who argue that tenure does help say, "Here, you want it black and white, here it is: In the states in which they have full tenure, many states which have full tenure have better education systems, proven better education outcome for the kids."

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Listen, I don't want to get rid of tenure. I just want to make it better. Tenure doesn't work, Diane, in a state like New Jersey, the way it's set up now when, in the last 10 years, out of over 150,000 teachers in New Jersey, 17 have been terminated for incompetence. Now, do we really believe that there are only 17 incompetent teachers in New Jersey?

DIANE SAWYER: But the union said it's willing to accommodate--

CHRIS CHRISTIE: They'll have more incompetent lawyers and--

DIANE SAWYER: The unions have said that they're willing to make some adjustments.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: No, what they said was instead of having an administrative law judge hear it, they're willing to have an arbitrator hear it but not change any of the rules.

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