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

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

Now, a year ago this afternoon, our state was in recovery from a challenge not of our own making. Super Storm Sandy devastated New Jersey in the fall of 2012, flooding our homes, turning off our power, and destroying our roads.

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.

Today, about 9 months after the first phase of disaster recovery funds started flowing in New Jersey, nearly $900 million, more than two-thirds of the funds for housing recovery programs are out the door or in the pipeline.

From the very beginning, the priority for this administration was putting those with the greatest needs and with the most limited financial resources at the front of the line. Now, of the nearly half of the housing money that has been obligated so far, 72.9% of that money has been awarded to low and middle-income families, and we are proud of that.

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. But I want to thank the legislature and all New Jerseyians for the cooperative, bipartisan, and resilient spirit that you demonstrated in coming back from Sandy. Let that spirit of Sandy be a powerful lesson to all of us that when times are most difficult, cooperation and progress are possible. Indeed, I tell you, they’re necessary.

Lastly, let me share with you one more hard truth that makes this attitude of choice that I’ve spoken about today necessary for New Jersey’s future.

We’ve discussed so many exciting opportunities for investments in our state, both today and in the last number of months: K-12 education, higher education, crime prevention, drug rehabilitation and job training coming together, increased access to health care, infrastructure investment, lower taxes, job growth. They’re all exciting, and all of which – done responsibly – could make New Jersey an even greater place.

But here’s the simple truth that everybody in this government knows: We cannot afford to do it.

Why? Large part because of our pension and debt service costs. For fiscal year 2015, the increase in pension and debt service cost could amount – the increase could amount to as much as nearly $1 billion. That’s nearly $1 billion that we can’t spend on education, that we can’t spend on infrastructure improvement, that we can’t use to put more cops on the street, that we won’t have available to us to increase access to health care.

Now, for those who would advocate higher income taxes like the ones I’ve vetoed before, remember that the amount raised by that tax would not even cover the increase in our scheduled pension payment for next year and would undoubtedly make us less competitive in this fiercely competitive national job market.

…Exciting choices to be made but the resources not available to do them – these are the consequences of a failure to engage in an attitude of choice. If continue in an era where we believe we can choose everything, let me suggest to you that we’re really choosing nothing.

We need to have the conversation now about further changes to our pension system and about adding further to our state’s already burdened debt load. You know, the time to avoid this conversation and to avoid these choices is nearly over everybody. 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 citizens, not just the select few.

Now, I’m ready to engage in those conversations and help – with you – to truly create in this state an honest attitude of choice. The result will be a better, smarter, stronger New Jersey.

The results from our refusal to make the tough choice, our refusal to choose will be a weaker New Jersey. And make no mistake about it: If we choose everything no matter what rhetoric either side of the aisle uses, the only way to continue to pay for this is to burden our middle class with even higher taxes in this state. That is, to me, and I believe to all of you, an unacceptable alternative and it’s an abandonment of our duty.

Centuries ago, a philosopher wrote, “Choice, not chance, determines your destiny” and this remains true for New Jersey today. Our destiny is not set. It is the product of the choices we make. Our future is not set. It too is the product of the choices we make from this day forward.

So let us choose wisely. We’re sent here to act. Let’s not fail to act. Let’s create an attitude of choice.

Let us choose to invest in better schools and not a status quo in which we leave some children behind and put the rest at risk of being swallowed up by a rising tide of mediocrity and failure.

Let’s choose the path of safer streets. Let’s not leave our families vulnerable to the heartless carjackers who would destroy our quality of life.

et us celebrate every life by creating an opportunity for every citizen through an excellent education, a productive job, and a safe and thriving community. In this hour of choice, let us choose a better New Jersey.

You see, this is what we owe our citizens, our children, and ourselves. New Jersey has long been blessed – really blessed – by an abundance of natural resources and by our extraordinary human talent.

2014 – we’ve also been blessed by a return to prosperity. Let’s all choose to make the most of it, and let’s choose to do it together. We have succeeded working together to be an example for the entire country to spirited bipartisan. Let us not abandon that course. It is the course to success and happiness for all the people of the state of New Jersey.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the great state of New Jersey.


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