Washington (CNN)Gov. Chris Christie, who's been traveling to early presidential primary states to make his pitch for a potential 2016 campaign, avoided national overtones in a speech on Thursday in Washington, addressing instead financial problems that are plaguing his state.
Chris Christie rails against tax increases
Speaking to an audience largely from his home state of New Jersey, the Republican lectured his Democratic colleagues and blamed the state's struggles on policies that favor tax increases.
"The wealthy are doing well. I'm not looking to protect them, but I'm not looking to hurt them either," he said at an annual dinner hosted by New Jersey's Chamber of Commerce. "We need to be lifting each other up."
Christie, who's set to deliver his annual budget address next week, called for a fair tax system and vowed to work towards a more affordable environment for businesses. His comments come as his administration battles with the Democratic-controlled legislature over a possible gas tax hike that would sustain the state's transportation fund.
"We will continue to resist a tax system in New Jersey which is unfair to our citizens," Christie said. "We need to have tax fairness and competitiveness in this state."
As Christie prepares for a potential White House bid, he faces questions over his state's financial woes, which have seen multiple credit downgrades under his tenure, and just recently, the departure of Mercedes Benz to Georgia.
Trying to paint himself on the national scale as someone who can both work with Democrats and take them on, Christie urged his colleagues to work together and "not drive our state to fiscal instability."
"We have to grow this economy, not the government," he said to audience that included state's congressional delegation as well as business executives, state lawmakers and local political figures. "The way to do that is to make it profitable for businesses."
The term-limited Christie argued that state legislators are already too distracted with the next gubernatorial election in 2017. He joked that he'll sign an executive order to remove all the mirrors from the state house in Trenton, because "every time a member of the Legislature walks by a mirror and looks into it, they see a governor."
But Christie may be seeing some financial struggles in his potential presidential campaign as well. Just as he was finishing his speech, The New York Times and The Washington Post published reports online about previous Christie backers and donors who are now leaning towards former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
A top Christie adviser responded to the reports saying there was plenty of money to go around.
"The fact is, there is not a finite pool of donors as some seem to suggest," said Mike DuHaime, a close adviser to Christie. "An essential part of Gov. Christie's appeal is his ability to bring new people into the political process, whether they be donors or activists. He has proven this ability time and again in the past, winning handily in a blue state. If he decides to run, it is clear he will have the resources to run an aggressive, winning race."
The governor is also in Washington this weekend to attend meetings for the Republican Governors Association, which he chaired last year, and the National Governors Association.