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

The governor also called for expanding the school day and the school year, saying education is the key to growth.

Christie said the state spends more than $25 billion a year for public education. That amounts to more than $17,000 a year per student, the most in the nation, said Christie.

“If student achievement is lagging at the exact moment when we need improvement more than ever in order to compete in the world economy, we should take these steps – every possible step –  to boost student achievement,” said Christie. “Many of our new initiatives recognize a core feature of modern American life: that the quality of education and the quality of life in our communities are inextricably intertwined. That’s why this year, we need to be more aggressive, and bolder, in fixing our failing schools – and delivering a choice to those for whom today the only option is a bad option: a failing school. This is a moral obligation.”

Some New Jersey voters agreed with the idea, while some did not, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.

“I think that seven hours a day is more than plenty for them unless you’re spreading out their activities and time on task, but I think seven hours is more than enough,” said teacher Ana Feijoo.

Christie also outlined his plan to ensure safer communities across the state.

The governor spoke of the fatal carjacking at the Short Hills Mall last month and the arrests of four suspects who all had prior criminal records.

“Almost two years ago, I announced a proposed constitutional amendment to modify the right to bail in New Jersey. The concept is simple: New Jersey courts should have the right to keep dangerous criminals off the streets and in jail until trial,” said the governor. “The federal government allows a violent criminal who is judged by the court to be a danger to the community to be held without bail. New Jersey law does not. This must change.”

The governor called on the Legislature to pass bail reform this year.

The governor said the homicide rate and the crime rate is down across the state, but more work still needs to be done.

He said he backs Democratic State Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s idea that there should be incentives for communities to develop more shared service agreements and regional police forces, like in Camden, that are making it possible for more police officers to be on the street.

Christie also said recovery from Oct. 2012’s Hurricane Sandy continues to progress.

“A year ago this afternoon, our state was in recovery from a challenge not of our own making,” said Christie, in reference to the GWB scandal.

But the governor said the state is coming back from Sandy.

“Despite the magnitude and the devastation of the storm, the one thing we’ve learned in the last year plus is that Sandy could not break our state’s spirit. This past summer, most businesses at the Shore opened on time. Our boardwalks were rebuilt. Many of the crowds came back. And schools that had been damaged were re-opened,” Christie said. “The bottom line is this: we’re a long way from the finish line, but we are also a long way from where we were one year ago. Challenges remain and I will not rest until every person hurt by Sandy has their life back to normal. That is my mission.”

The governor’s speech came as a new poll shows some slippage in his popularity. His 65-percent approval rating has dropped to 59 since the bridge scandal erupted, Kramer reported.

The governor will have another opportunity to win over voters on Jan. 21, when he is inaugurated for a second term.

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