New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine expressed a hint of regret that he won't be around to lead the state out of the recession, but said he's looking forward to returning to work -- probably in finance and teaching -- after leaving office.
The Democratic governor told The Associated Press in his first extended interview since losing his bid for re-election that he'll consider career offers after his first term ends on Jan. 19. He lost the Nov. 3 gubernatorial election to Republican Chris Christie by about 85,000 votes, a result considered an upset in Democratic-leaning New Jersey.
"I haven't really made any plans,'' Corzine told AP on Saturday. "My future is really something I want to work on after I leave government. I'm very unclear at this stage.''
Corzine described his return to finance as "probable,'' and said he'd like to teach on the side beginning next fall. He repeatedly denied a rumor that he had been a candidate to be Bank of America's next CEO.
Corzine made a fortune as head of Goldman Sachs before being ousted and turning to politics. He spent $131 million of his own money on successful runs for U.S. Senate and governor, and his recent defeat.
As governor, he accepted a token salary of just $1 per year. So, while Corzine said he remains financially comfortable, the 63-year-old governor may consider it a good time to replenish his personal fortune before retiring.
Starting his own company or running someone else's are two possibilities he mentioned.
He said he also plans to keep his 2-year-old apartment on the Hoboken riverfront.
The former Wall Street executive said he'll miss making economic decisions to guide the state, especially in such difficult times.
"In a time of shrinking resources, how you make the choices to get from where we are today in the short run, through a recession, are some of the most important ones a government has to make,'' Corzine said. "You can recover from financial deficits if you're willing to make tough decisions.''
Corzine defended the economic choices he made as governor, and said he's particularly proud of having laid a foundation for the state's children by making education and children's programs a priority despite the state's financial crisis.
Tens of thousands of children were added to health insurance rolls during Corzine's tenure. The way poor schools are funded was revamped to benefit poor students, not just their districts.
Preschools were added in the poorest districts; insurers were ordered to screen for autism in a state with the highest childhood autism rates in the country; a task force on teen driving fatalities made recommendations, since implemented, to make roads safer; and the state just received a mostly glowing report from a federal monitor on the progress of a top-to-bottom child welfare overhaul.
Corzine even had kind words for his failed highway toll plan, saying the concept of steeply raising tolls to pay down half the state's debt was financially sound though politically unpopular. New Jersey continues to be one of the most indebted states in the country, with about $34 billion owed.
The governor said his biggest regret was failing to convince the public that he was a strong and capable financial steward.
"I know the things we had done were very good and were a basis to continue to address the future of the state,'' he said.
Corzine said he's likely to remain active in politics, though he doubts he would run for elected office again.
In farewells with staff and colleagues, Corzine has sometimes become emotional.
"I'm trying to make sure people know I am grateful for their hard work and contributions,'' he said. "I feel a responsibility to say 'thank you.'''
He said he has no regrets over his decade-long foray into elected politics, particularly his decision in the late 1990s to run for U.S. Senate, a race he won after digging deeply into his own pockets.
"Knowing what I know now, in 1998 or 1999 when I was deciding to get into politics, I'd do it all again,'' Corzine said, with less than two weeks to go in his gubernatorial term.