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Christie Addresses Bridge Scandal In State Of The State Speech, Says It Doesn’t Define State

Governor Calls For Reduction Of Pension Costs, Extension To School Day And Year
Gov. Chris Christie delivers his 'State of the State' address in Trenton on Jan. 14, 2014. (credit: CBS 2)

Gov. Chris Christie delivers his ‘State of the State’ address in Trenton on Jan. 14, 2014. (credit: CBS 2)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gov. Chris Christie delivered his State of the State address Tuesday afternoon on the eve of his second term.

He may be under a cloud but Christie got a three-minute standing ovation when he entered the Assembly chamber, shaking hands with some of the very people investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

The governor began his 50-minute speech by again addressing the scandal that has rocked his administration over the past week.

He again took the blame, saying as governor he’s responsible for what happens and said the administration will cooperate with any investigation into the lane closures.

“Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we were entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better — much better,” Christie said, adding, “I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state. This Administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people’s lives in New Jersey to be delayed for any reason. I am the leader of this state and its people and I stand here today proud to be both. I am always determined to do better.”

He went on to say the state of New Jersey is strong and getting better, touting a series of positive economic figures over the past four years.

The governor opened his second term with a call for continued compromise. He said the accomplishments over his first four years — including balancing the budget and pension and tenure reform — were only possible through bipartisan support.

“We acted and we acted together,” said the governor.

But the governor warned if more isn’t done to reduce pension costs, many of his plans for bettering New Jersey in the coming years will not be possible.

“If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension costs and debt service costs, we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few,” Christie said.

Christie said that the costs will rise by nearly $1 billion in the 2015 fiscal year that starts July 1 if action is not taken.

He said that’s “$1 billion we can’t spend on education.”

Christie said failure to act soon would put the burden on the middle class.

“We’re sent here to act, let’s not fail to act. Let’s create an attitude of choice,” Christie said.

He did not lay out a specific plan, but the issue is likely to be a centerpiece of his budget proposal next month.

Christie said the state government shrank as more private sector jobs were created.

“In this new year and in the next four years, we need to build on this momentum by creating a new attitude: we need to create an attitude of choice,” Christie said.

The Republican said property taxes are still too high and called on the Legislature to work on a new property tax relief initiative.

The governor also called on the state Legislature to make the 2 percent property tax cap set to expire in April permanent.

Christie said more tax issues will come up when he presents his budget next month.

“Let me tell you one choice we will not make — because it is one answer that will not help grow jobs in our state: and that is raising taxes,” said Christie.

The governor called on lawmakers to end sick leave payouts for government employees. He said it cost the state $880 million.