TRENTON, N.J. (TheBlaze/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologized again Tuesday for his office’s alleged involvement in a 2012 political payback scheme, saying his administration “let down the people we are entrusted to serve.”
On the eve of his second term, the governor opened his annual State of the State address by touching only briefly on scandal before moving on in his 46-minute speech to take credit for the state’s improving economy and cycle through such familiar themes as avoiding tax increases and working with the Democrats who control both chambers of the state Legislature.
“The last week has certainly tested this administration,” he said. “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better.”
He received tempered applause after he went on, saying, “This administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people’s lives in Jersey to be delayed.”
Turning later to policy matters, he warned that the state must reduce its pension and debt-service payments in the coming year. They’re scheduled to rise by a combined total of nearly $1 billion.
He also promoted the state’s rising high school graduation rate and proposed lengthening both the school day and school year but did not offer details. The school-time proposal received a standing ovation from lawmakers and other dignitaries at the State House speech.
Christie promised to present choices to overhaul the state’s tax system next month when he presents his budget proposal but did not offer an insight on how he might want to do that. A tax cut he proposed two years ago foundered in the Legislature.
Among his audience were lawmakers who announced this week that they’re intensifying their probe of the political retribution scheme.
The scandal broke wide open last week with the release of documents showing the involvement of Christie aides and appointees in apparently politically orchestrated traffic lane closings in September that caused massive gridlock. The governor has fired one close aide and others on his team have resigned.
Christie first apologized last week during a nearly two-hour news conference, saying he was blindsided by his staff’s involvement. Christie has denied any knowledge in the planning or execution of the plot, and there is no evidence linking him to it.
Christie is set to be inaugurated for a second term Jan. 21.
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