Transcript: NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s 2014 state of the state address – Part I

Part I: Partial transcript of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s state of the state address on Jan. 14, 2014:

Thank you very much. Happy New Year.

Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Speaker – congratulations – Mr. President, members of the state legislature, friends and fellow New Jerseyians.

Now 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. I know our citizens deserve better – much better.

Now, I’m the governor, and I’m ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch, both good and bad.

Now, without a doubt, we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again.

But 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. [Applause]

I am the leader of this state and its people, and I stand here today proud to be both. [Applause]

But also those of you who know me know I am always, always determined to do better.

So, now, I come before you once again for my fourth time to report to you on the state of our state, and the good news is today the state of our state is good and it is getting better.

Remember that 4 years ago right now, we were in the throes of an economic crisis. Today, our unemployment rate is 7.8% – that is the lowest in 5 years.

Four years ago, we were losing jobs. Today, we have gained 70,000 jobs in 2013 alone and a total of 156,000 in the last 4 years.

Four years ago, wealth and jobs were leaving the state. Today, personal income for New Jerseyians is at an all-time high, and we’re attracting new companies and that has brought jobs. We now have 4 straight years of private sector job growth.

In fact, in November, the drop in our unemployment rate was the largest one-month drop ever measured, and in the last year, New Jersey had the second largest drop in its unemployment rate in America, only behind the state of North Carolina.

Now, we could have chosen to go down a path of continued tax increases and fund the state’s addiction to spending. But we didn’t. We held the line against any new taxes and brought spending in the current fiscal year to a level below fiscal year 2008 – 6 years ago.

Now, we could have let state government grow even while the private sector shrank but we didn’t. Today, there are 6,000 fewer state employees than when I took office 4 years ago, but there are more than 155,000 new private sector employees.

We improved our business climate and today by every measure business confidence in New Jersey is up. In fact, one national magazine ranked New Jersey among the top 5 state with the most improved business climates in America.

It’s no accident how we got into this place today – no accident at all. We chose – we chose to do better.

And in this new year and in the next 4 years, we need to build on this momentum by creating a new attitude. We need to create an attitude of choice. An attitude of choice is not about choosing everything. It’s not about saying yes to everyone. It is about us setting our priorities and choosing to invest in New Jersey where it matters – that’s to put in place the reforms and the reductions that will make that possible.

And the best part of our turnaround in these past 4 years is because we have chosen to work together.

Let’s take a moment – these are our achievements: 4 balanced budgets passed with bipartisan support; pension reform passed with bipartisan support; teacher tenure reform passed with bipartisan; a cap on property taxes passed with bipartisan support. We acted and we acted together.

Even the competition amongst states is fierce, the record on this is clear – no state in this country has shown more bipartisan cooperation in governance over the last 4 years than in New Jersey and our people are proud of it.

Let’s resolve today that we will continue to put those people who are proud of us now that we’ll put them first, that we’ll choose to do our jobs.

Now, one of the things that we know historically has driven people out of New Jersey was high property taxes. In 2010, together, we capped them, and the 2% cap has worked. In these past 2 years, property tax growth has been the lowest in 2 decades.

But the job is far from finished. Property tax is still too high, and so today I ask for you to join me in enacting a new property relief initiative that tackles the root causes that are driving up property taxes in the first place.

First, let’s get some context. The 2% cap that we already have enacted has worked for a reason. The reason it’s worked is because we’ve done it by controlling costs. We accompanied it with reform of an interest arbitrary award system that we all knew needed fixing. As you know, the interest arbitrary cap was not permanent. It is set to expire this April unless we act. So I ask you today on both sides of the aisle – let us renew the cap on interest arbitration awards in that it’s working and let’s make that cap permanent before the deadline in April.

Another reason property taxes are so high is that our cities and our towns are stuck with a series of costly state rules that increase the cost of local government. As the cost of government grows, taxpayers – property tax payers – are paying the price.

Now, we’ve worked with the Senate to try to pass real consolidation and civil service shared services reform. We haven’t yet got it done in the Assembly.

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