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Chris Christie apologizes again for payback scheme during State of the State address



By ANGELA DELLI SANTI

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Faced with a widening political scandal that threatens to undermine his second term and a possible 2016 presidential run, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologized again Tuesday, saying his administration "let down the people we are entrusted to serve" but that the issue doesn't define his team or the state.

On the eve of his second term, the governor opened his annual State of the State address by touching only briefly on the apparent political payback plot before moving on to take credit for the state's improving economy and cycle through such familiar themes as avoiding tax increases and working with the Democrats who control both chambers of the state Legislature.

He also promoted the state's rising high school graduation rate and proposed lengthening both the school day and school year but did not offer details. He promised to present choices to overhaul the state's tax system next month when he presents his budget proposal but did not offer an insight on how he might want to do that. A tax cut he proposed two years ago foundered in the Legislature.

"The last week has certainly tested this administration," he told legislators and others gathered at the Statehouse. "Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better."

He received tempered applause after he went on, saying, "This administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives in Jersey to be delayed."

Among his audience were lawmakers who announced this week that they're intensifying their probe of the political retribution scheme.

The scandal broke wide open last week with the release of documents showing the involvement of Christie aides and appointees in apparently politically orchestrated traffic lane closings in September that caused massive gridlock. The governor has fired one close aide and others on his team have resigned.

Christie first apologized last week during a nearly two-hour news conference, saying he was blindsided by his staff's involvement. Christie has denied any knowledge in the planning or execution of the plot, and there is no evidence linking him to it.

A popular figure in the Republican Party, Christie won re-election by 22 points in November after earning high marks from New Jerseyans for his handling of the state's recovery from Superstorm Sandy, and his stock had been rising as a potential candidate for president in 2016.

Now, he is hoping his State of the State address will help him rebound from the apparent political payback scheme that could damage his second term and cut short any ambitions to run for president.

The first year of his second term is considered a key building block for his political future.

After his November re-election, his advisers suggested he had just a one-year window to stack up accomplishments as a can-do, bipartisan leader before his lame-duck status - and a prospective White House campaign - start to interfere.

The recent revelations may have slammed that window shut.

His top-line new proposal - to extend the school day - was not exactly embraced by one key group.

Wendell Steinhauer, president of New Jersey's largest and most powerful teachers union and a frequent adversary of Christie, said in a statement ahead of the speech that the group would welcome discussion of the proposal with Christie. But Steinhauer also criticized Christie for his veto Monday of a bill that would have implemented full-day kindergarten statewide.

An overhaul of public employee retirement benefits by Christie and the Legislature in 2011 was bitterly opposed by the union, which spent millions of dollars on anti-Christie ads during his gubernatorial campaigns.

The plan is the latest from a governor who has sought to retool schooling in grades kindergarten through 12 with mixed success.

He successfully overhauled century-old teacher tenure rules in a way the union supported, essentially eliminating lifetime job protections. But the Democrat-led Legislature has not gone along with his voucher plan, which would allow children in failing schools to attend classes elsewhere, including at private or parochial schools.

Christie is set to be inaugurated for a second term Jan. 21.

Despite Scandals, Christie Says State of the State Is Good

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jbjaybax January 15 2014 at 8:32 AM

The only thing Christie will make sure that does not happen again is getting caught.

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Thomas J Mosco January 15 2014 at 7:01 AM

Such coverage HP. what about your King Obama all of his poeple discretion's you never cover that with such attention?

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cathybugles January 15 2014 at 9:10 AM

Liberal media ignores Obummer trashing the country so maybe he can be dictator for life and everybody forget about Holder and his scams, too as entrepreneurialism disappears.

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skosta January 15 2014 at 6:50 AM

In my opinion Christie made just one mistake last night in his State of the State address.

He should not have addressed Bridgegate until the very last minute, and forced those yahoos on MSNBC to watch him give a litany of his accomplishments before wrapping up.

He was able to do that for about 15 minutes until they cut away from him in disbelief that he still seemed to be running for president despite the scandal.

Keep it up Chris!

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fishhead80 January 15 2014 at 8:42 AM

Ain't you just tired of tricks like that?

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cathybugles January 15 2014 at 9:12 AM

Poll of libscum showed he moved ahead of Hillary so must be destroyed.

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fishhead80 January 15 2014 at 6:38 AM

That's why he was late for his State of the Stae. He wanted the national coverage and had to wait until Obama got done drooling over the Miami Heat Team. That crap is important to Obama but our troops are just left to die in Benghazie. Christie & Obama should both just resign and get out of our lives.

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skosta January 15 2014 at 6:27 AM

LOL! By putting Christie's State Of The State on national TV to strut his achievements, the media has given the governor the best possible gift, free publicity on the national stage!

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picker25 January 15 2014 at 6:19 AM

IF YOU BELIEVE THE GOV.PLEASE CALL ME I HAVE A BRIDGE IN BROOKLYN ITS 4 SALE . HE CANT HELP HIMSELF , THAT FAT REPUBLICAN BASTARD.

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3 replies to picker25's comment
Joyce January 15 2014 at 5:34 AM

Why don't more complain about Obama and what he does right behind our backs. Plus the lousy congress that doesn't take time to read papers they should then they sign our rights away. Thank God for the ones in congress that due care as few as they are.

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ajp0007 January 15 2014 at 5:24 AM

Lets wait and see and hear what happens and where this goes. It could be an attack from the Hilliary camp before the next presidential race. Please don't be gullible to propaganda and political assination attempts before all the facts are in.
Remember, Hilliary ran out the door after people really started asking questions. She dismissed any attempt to get the truth on the Bengazi attacks

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fishhead80 January 15 2014 at 5:23 AM

It was reported that on 1 of the gridlock days Christie was sitting next to the guy who took the 5th and orcestrated this crap, while that guy got tests begging for it to stop. But Christie knew nothing about it? NOT ! Another bully bites the dust!

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fishhead80 January 15 2014 at 5:10 AM

This guy took COLA increases from senior citizen retirees who were first responders and are now in their retirement years. They have no representation for negotiating their retirement. So the big bully just took their increases instead of negotiating with new hires who can fight for themselves and have representation. A bully, YOU BET! There is nothing stopping him from supporting the same thing to seniors' SS checks instead of making changes to those who aren't on SS yet or not close to being there yet. I don't think he can be trusted with the Presidency. He's just too much of a grandstander, BS'er and a bully. And it's largely his fauklt that we've been stuck with Obama for a second term. He didn't want to wait for the end of what could have been Romney's 8 years so with Obama winning Christie only had to wait 4 years to run for President. What a piece of crap.

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