TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie focused on efforts to recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in his annual State of the State speech this year, calling on Congress to approve $51 billion in federal aid that has been held up by House Republicans and praising individuals who made extraordinary efforts to help the storm’s victims.
Christie said that New Jersey is a community that “when faced with adversity – rolls up its sleeves, gets back to work, and in word and deed shows that it will never, ever give up.”
Christie singled out people like Frank Smith Jr., the volunteer chief of the Moonachie First Aid Squad who led rescue efforts even though his own home was destroyed by the storm.
NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel was critical of Christie for offering few specifics today. “The Governor’s speech sounded good, but it was devoid of any policies or vision for the state for the coming year especially around the environment and climate change and rebuilding after Sandy smarter and better,” he said.
“The powerful and destructive impact of coastal storms like Sandy are becoming the norm for New Jersey and will only become worse in the future,” said Democrat Grace L. Spencer, chairwoman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. ”Global warming, which has and is contributing to the frequency and severity of these coastal storms, will not just mend itself without direct action and responsible environmental legislation.”
Christie also did not mention his proposal for a 10 percent tax cut that was a cornerstone of his State of the State speech last year, and he only briefly spoke about unemployment – reported at 9.6% in November, down from a high of 9.9% in August.
“Sandy may have stalled New Jersey’s economy, but there is plenty of evidence that New Jerseyans have not let it stop our turnaround,” Christie said. “Unemployment is coming down, 2011 was our best private sector job growth year in eleven years and 2012 is also positive.”
Democrats made their own pre-emptive strike with a press conference on Monday. “The governor got elected by saying he would do something about the economy in New Jersey, but our unemployment rate is nearly identical now to what it was when he came into office,” said state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland). “Despite these figures, at no point in the last three years has this governor presented a comprehensive plan to create jobs in this state. In the meantime, the middle class in New Jersey has shrunk and more people are living in poverty. We presented the governor with dozens of bills to create jobs and boost the economy, but he vetoed most of them because they were Democratic ideas. We aren’t going to rest though. Just because the governor doesn’t want to act does not mean we are going to sit around waiting for him.”
Republicans were quick to praise Christie after his speech. “The Governor’s laser-like focus on rebuilding the lives of residents impacted by Sandy is heartening,” said state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R- Monmouth) “ We are lucky that in one of our darkest hours, we have a strong and decisive leader to chart the path back to life as it was before the storm, and his handling of the immediate and long-term response will certainly be the hallmark of his legacy.”
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