By Hilary Russ
Jan 8 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on
Tuesday renewed his calls to the U.S. Congress to quickly pass
the full $60.4 billion Superstorm Sandy relief package, saying
victims in New Jersey had been "short-changed."
During his state of the state remarks, Christie, a possible
Republican presidential contender for 2016, appealed to
lawmakers from eight states that previously received federal
disaster funds for other emergencies to act on the legislation
for victims of Sandy.
Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coast on Oct. 29, flooding
homes, businesses and public infrastructure in New Jersey, New
York and throughout the region.
On Friday, Congress approved $9.7 billion in initial relief
for victims of Sandy.
A second vote on the remainder of the $60.4 billion aid
package is planned for Jan. 15. House of Representatives Speaker
John Boehner, a Republican, drew harsh criticism for delaying
the vote by the Senate.
The original vote would have followed a grueling fight over
legislation to avoid sweeping automatic federal tax hikes and
Christie said the storm hurt New Jersey's economy just as it
was recovering from the recession. But he said the state was
"stronger today than it has been in years."
Christie touted accomplishments made largely by working with
the Democrat-led state legislature: balanced budgets, no new
taxes, and the creation of 75,000 new private sector jobs, as
well as public pension reforms and a new 2 percent property tax
"We are recovering and growing, not declining and
descending," he said in prepared remarks.
DEMOCRATS BEG TO DIFFER ON STATE'S ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
Christie's speech did not address the state's unemployment
rate -- at 9.6 percent in November, the fourth highest in the
nation -- and a growing revenue shortfall.
It drew fire from Democrats, who have painted a gloomier
outlook of New Jersey's economy since last year.
Christie proposed an across-the-board state income tax cut
last year, but Democrats insisted that it should only be
implemented if revenues reached the high level of growth that
Christie predicted for fiscal 2013.
They haven't. The state legislature's chief budget officer
estimated on Jan. 3 that New Jersey could fall $705 million
short of its projected revenue collections for fiscal 2013.
The state is also still in the grip of a foreclosure crisis,
with more than 7 percent of New Jersey's mortgaged homes in
foreclosure in November, the second highest rate in the nation,
according to CoreLogic. Christie took office in January 2010.
Democrats have said that even before Sandy hit, the state's
flagging economy had barely budged during Christie's tenure
despite his promises of a "New Jersey comeback," a publicity
campaign that Christie later allowed to fade away.
"We're very disappointed he did not touch upon other issues
that are of interest to the residents of this state," said New
Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver at a news conference.
Christie is not scheduled to present his proposed budget for
fiscal 2014 until late-February. The fiscal year begins July 1.
Christie's handling of Sandy boosted his popularity with
voters. In the days after the storm, his approval rating was 77
percent, his highest ever, according to Fairleigh Dickenson
University's PublicMind poll.
Nearly as many voters -- 73 percent -- approved of the job
he is doing in the university's most recent poll results on