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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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Bill January 14 2014 at 9:04 PM

If anything subequently points to Christy knowing anything about Bridgegate before the scandlel broke, he is finished in politics. It is this risky finality that makes me tend to believe him

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2 replies
Hi RON Bill January 14 2014 at 9:13 PM

If he is "finished" because of this bridge thing (that dems are trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill) then Obama would have been double finished with all his illegal activities... in violating the constitution and all the many cover ups.... This Christie thing is nothing more than the liberal media and the dems trying to keep the public eye on him so as no one will be thinking about Bengazhi, IRS scandal, fast and furious, AP taps, and taps on the news reporters phone (and his parents) ...that the Dems are "going to get to the bottom of"... What a joke... wake up folks do not fall for this stupid trick..

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Tom Bill January 14 2014 at 10:42 PM

Bill, I think where you may be wrong is the fact that Christie had no choice but to play dumb at this point. Considering this has been in the news for 4 months just how likely is it that he didn't have any idea what was going on and was 'blindsided" by the news he just found out about? His only chance of surviving is to blame it on someone else and claim to be ignorant about the subject. He's either lying or is incompetent.

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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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carrie January 14 2014 at 7:24 PM

Conspiring men in high places

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martin3571 January 14 2014 at 5:04 PM

Please dont fool yourselves by saying "look what big O did and he didnt get in trouble!" Your showing what a fool you are! All of the below and above mentioned incidents are disgusting acts from any leader! Dem or Rep! however you will all defend your Party till the end! Thats whats wrong with my America!

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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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rockytony January 14 2014 at 7:16 PM

Once Christie has been cleared from the shenanigans of his power seeking assistants will this mean that all of you slamming Christie will now be able to re-direct your vitriol to the real scandals caused by the folks who brought you Fast and Furious; IRS Scandals; Benghazi slaughter; and the wrecking of many of our health care plans?

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gfirealty January 14 2014 at 5:38 PM

This guy may not be around much longer when some of his confidants are given pleal deals to sing...and to avoid jail, sing they will...

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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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