(Corrects percentage to 49 percent from 41 percent in paragraph
By Edith Honan
Jan 14 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie opened
his State of the State Address on Tuesday with an apology and a
vow to fully cooperate with "all appropriate" investigations of
an apparent scheme to cause massive traffic jams as well as the
use of federal money for a state ad campaign.
Christie - a charismatic conservative and an early favorite
in the Republican bid for the White House in 2016, was
re-elected in a landslide victory last November - but the pair
of scandals coming in the first weeks of the year have put him
on the defensive.
"The last week has certainly tested this administration.
Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the
people we are entrusted to serve," Christie said. "Without a
doubt, we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to
ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again."
Two sets of emails last week appeared to show that
Christie's aides had orchestrated lane closures for several days
last September on a stretch of highway leading to the George
Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New
Jersey and Manhattan, and then lied about it.
Christie has denied any knowledge of the apparent
orchestration to snarl traffic at the bridge as political
payback against the Democratic mayor of the nearby city of Fort
Lee, New Jersey, for his refusal to endorse Christie's
But the governor's speech mostly addressed the "Jersey
Comeback," which Christie has long claimed has resulted in
private sector jobs and secured public-private investment in the
Garden State, and his cooperation with the Democrat-controlled
"No state in this country has shown more bipartisan
cooperation and governance over the last four years than New
Jersey and our people are proud of it. Let's resolve today that
we will continue to put those people first. We will do our
jobs," Christie said.
"These are our achievements: Four balanced budgets. Passed
with bipartisan support. Pension reform and tenure
reform. Passed with bipartisan support. A cap on property
taxes. Passed with bipartisan support," Christie said. "We acted
and we acted together."
Christie also gave a nod to an issue that was at the top of
his agenda in his first term - an across-the-board tax cut -
though he said he will wait to announce specific ideas when he
gives his budget address next month.
The state's economy has seen signs of improvement over the
last several months. Its unemployment rate experienced the
largest monthly drop on record in November, dropping 0.6
percentage point to 7.8 percent, according to the state labor
Revenue has also been recovering steadily. In the first five
months of fiscal 2014, which began on July 1, New Jersey took in
7.9 percent more revenue - from income, sales, corporate and
other taxes - than in the same period the prior fiscal year. But
that is still 1.2 percent, or $98 million, under budget.
Still, the state's fiscal situation and Christie's ideas for
improving it could be overshadowed by his response to the
scandals and speculation about his political future.
Since taking office four years ago, Christie - a former
federal prosecutor - has built a national reputation as a
Republican capable of winning bipartisan support for his
conservative priorities, like spending cuts, while repairing New
Jersey's reputation for corruption and graft.
TAKEN DOWN A PEG
A prolific fundraiser for GOP officials and candidates
across the country, Christie has taken on a leadership role with
the Republican Governor's Association. But the brewing scandals
threaten to tarnish that reputation and Christie's national
A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the bridge closure scandal had
taken a toll on Christie's image, with 26 percent of those asked
saying they were now less favorable toward him, compared with 3
percent who said they were more favorable and 49 percent, whose
view was the same.
More respondents believed he had a hand in the scandal, with
31 percent saying they thought he was aware his staff
intentionally caused the traffic jam, compared with 28 percent,
who said they believed his statements that he was in the dark.
The poll included responses from 986 people contacted Jan. 10-14
and had a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.6 percentage
The poll showed Christie was effectively tied among
Republicans and independents among possible GOP
candidates, backed by 18 percent of those asked, narrowly
leading Congressman Paul Ryan, who was favored by 17 percent of
respondnents, according to results from 771 polled Jan. 10-14.
That result had a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.1
Democrats, who control both houses of the New Jersey state
legislature, have called a special session to address the
Meanwhile, a New Jersey Democrat has requested a federal
probe into the use of storm relief funds for an ad campaign,
intended to draw visitors back to the Jersey Shore, that
featured Christie as he was seeking re-election.
(Additional reporting by Hilary Russ and Zach Cook)