Matt Katz, New Jersey Public Radio
Gov. Christie reiterated at the top of his high-profile State of the State speech Tuesday that "mistakes" were made in the bridgegate scandal, but he then quickly moved on to offer a range of proposals, most of which he has pushed in the past.
"Mistakes were clearly made," he said of his top aides' involvement in a political retribution scandal that caused traffic on the George Washington Bridge. "I know our citizens deserve better."
But, he said, the administration and Legislature "will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the peoples’ lives in New Jersey to be delayed.” The only Democrat in the Legislature to stand and applaud after that line was Brian Stack of Union City, who endorsed Christie's re-election campaign.
That work, as he described it, looks familiar to what Christie has advocated for over his last four years in office. Christie brought up proposals that he has previously advocated for: Bail reform to keep violent offenders in jail while awaiting trial; ending cash payouts for unused sick pay for public workers; sending non-violent drug offenders to treatment instead of prison; consolidating local government to save property taxes; and increasing funding to the pension system.
He did not propose an income tax cut, as he had in 2012 and 2013.
Christie's most significant new proposal was for a longer school day and school year. That could set him on a collision course with the New Jersey Education Association teachers' union, the strongest and most well-heeled lobby in the state. Christie has enjoyed public support for his previous fights with the NJEA, which helped him build a national image for being tough and blunt.
Christie spent a good deal of time talking about the need for education reform in urban areas, as he has in the past. After introducing the school superintendents of Camden and Newark -- two districts under state, and thereby Christie control -- he noted that only three graduates from Camden last year left school "college ready."
"That is obscene and unacceptable and a breaching of the faith of those families and every level of government responsible for their education," he said.
Last year's State of the State speech was much different. A confident Christie riding sky-high approval ratings in the wake of Superstorm Sandy spent much of his speech talking about the recovery efforts. This year, he brought up Sandy at the end, refuting the recent accusation that not much relief aid was going to low-income families.
"The bottom line is this: We are a long way to the finish line, but we are also a long way from where we were a year ago," he said.
Democrats were unimpressed with the speech. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said they were "Just different sound bites that don't mean much."