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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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muleskinner07 January 14 2014 at 9:50 PM

Its not working , not even the media can galvanize anyone to take an interest in Christie and NJ , Iran , ACA , Benghazi , NSA , IRS , Gays getting married , Supreme Court , deficit , on an on , too much going on .

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AngelC5376 January 14 2014 at 5:15 PM

The closure of lanes on the GWB was an inconvience to the people who use that bridge. It delayed ambulances trying to get to people who needed help. I know that I would not like it if one of my relatives was treated like this. People who were going to their first day on the job got there late. What an impression! Why did this closure go on for 5 days before Christie got involved? As soon as this closure was done (and it did make the news), why did he not do anything about this like opening all of the bridge lanes?

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2 replies
gretchn48 AngelC5376 January 14 2014 at 5:21 PM

i dont believe for 1 minute he knew nothing! you are govenor and you dont know about a major bridge that has closed down for days, IDONTTHINKSO! all bs

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PHYLIS AngelC5376 January 14 2014 at 5:24 PM

you are correct I live in New Jersey, and I cant imagine the man did not know what was going on Something is very fishy here, he was the Governer and he had to know what was going on. 4 days unbelievable. How can you believe this man.

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1 reply
dfbays2 PHYLIS January 14 2014 at 5:27 PM

how can you beoieve ourv President that has ied yo the American people so many times

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ccforty January 14 2014 at 7:54 PM

Next, who else is in line for the running! Why cant we get a grass roots independant to run

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kmclancy1 January 14 2014 at 7:51 PM

I hope you are not involved.

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Raymond Beck January 14 2014 at 5:25 PM

Okay, so what he's telling us is that those close to him have no respect for him, don't tell him anything that they are up to and use the weight of his office to achieve their political means behind his back. That's what he considers leadership. And he put that team together. That's the story he's pushing. And he wants to be president.

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1 reply
iansgolf Raymond Beck January 14 2014 at 5:29 PM

And Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Clinton have no respect for US citizens. Good luck with your health plan. Funny how the media has forgotten Benghazi, IRS scandal, etc. etc.

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1 reply
Raymond Beck iansgolf January 14 2014 at 7:53 PM

List all the proof then dude. Lets hear it. We have emails here DIRECTLY linking Christie's top circle. Where's the proof on Obama other than Republican b/s. And funny how you have forgotten that Christie has been on a four year honeymoon with the media since he took office. This is a REAL scandal dude, so the press is going to cover it as such.

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carrie January 14 2014 at 7:24 PM

Conspiring men in high places

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racetrked January 14 2014 at 8:10 PM

PEOPLE I`M NOT FROM JERSEY. BUT I`VE spenr much time there as a young boy. in the villas when it was a swamp area. helping my grandfather build a house. when i was 7 8 years old. i kinda love that state as alot of my youth was spent there and cape may. in the summer. you people must stop these quack`s from destroying it. first by downing christy. this party crap. is destroying this country. and those that feed on this bullcrap. need to step back, and stop taking and give alot. stop finding fault with those that are pushing foward. this nit picking gonna get you. and mess up a great state.

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2 replies
wddsparky racetrked January 14 2014 at 8:27 PM

Agreed...the democrat NJ legislation is Crap and dems are destroying this country !!

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weilunion racetrked January 14 2014 at 8:38 PM

Holding corrupt politicians accountable is now 'nit picking'. but take a Black shoplifter and put him or her in for profit jails -- now that is accountability, right?

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Tom January 14 2014 at 11:14 PM

It's hard to believe there are so many stupid people who don't see Christie for what he is. I'll give you a clue or two. Tony Soprano. John Gotti. Al Capone.

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series3v12 January 14 2014 at 5:37 PM

Well, at least Christie supporters aren't defending his actions by exhuming Monica Lewinsky, Iran-Contra and weapons of mass destruction......since their logic is impeccable.....

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partsautomall January 14 2014 at 5:38 PM

IF WE KNEW ALL THE GAMES ALL POLITICIANS PLAY WE WOULD BE FLOORED.NOT CONDONING IT BUT THEY ALL DO IT

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