Sandy dominates Christie’s State of the State speech

Gov. Chris Christie spent most of his State of the State speech Tuesday talking about New Jersey’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

The governor says Sandy hit New Jersey hard, but the state continues to fight back.

“New Jersey’s spirit has never been stronger. Our resolve never more firm. Our unity never more obvious,” he said. “Let there also be no mistake. Much work still lies ahead. Damage that comes only once in a century will take, in some cases, years to repair.”

Christie says he’s hoping there will be quick congressional action next week on a Sandy aid bill, adding that New Jersey has waited seven times longer for assistance than the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law a $9.7 billion bill to pay flood insurance claims from Superstorm Sandy. House Speaker John Boehner has promised a Jan. 15 vote on a more comprehensive $51 billion aid package.

Christie also urged state lawmakers to put aside what he called destructive politics in an election year and work together to help the state rebuild.

“We will need to spend our funds wisely and efficiently, and we will. We will need to cooperate with each other, and I trust we will,” Christie said. “We will need to learn the lessons from past disasters and listen to each other.”

No new policy initiatives

Monmouth University political analyst Patrick Murray says it was not surprising that the governor did not unveil any policy initiatives in his address. As Christie sets the stage for his re-election effort, Murray says, he’s highlighting his accomplishments and positioning himself as the one person who can lead the state’s recovery from Sandy.

“Those two things he feels are more than enough to run on in 2013, and he doesn’t need to propose any new initiatives, and we certainly didn’t see any new initiatives in this speech,” Murray said.

Among the omissions, according to Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, were Christie’s failure to mention the state’s revenue shortfall and that New Jersey has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.

“The other issue that we failed to hear our governor address is the issue of increasing crime in communities across the state and the inability of cities to provide public safety to its residents,” said Oliver, D-Essex.

While Christie was right to focus on Sandy in his address, Oliver says the Legislature’s Democratic leadership is disappointed he didn’t touch on other areas.

“While we will focus in on what we need to do in Ocean and in Monmouth and in southern Middlesex and in Bergen, there are approximately 17 other counties in this state that are faced with critical challenges,” she said. “The governor is going to need to address those issues as well.”

Looking ahead, Murray said the Democrats will need a candidate for governor who can make residents believe it’s Christie’s fault that property taxes and unemployment are not going down.

“They haven’t done a good job over the past three years of doing that,” he said.

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