TRENTON – Properly delayed. That’s the state of the State of the State.
Last week, Gov. Chris Christie opted for the literal interpretation of his constitutional duty and eulogized “a mentor,” Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, (R-26), Parsippany. This week, the governor turns his attention to the people of the state and the body of newly-assembled lawmakers, some still mourning the death of their colleague.
As far as Christie’s speech, the administration that prides itself on tight lips has succeeded again. Only Christie has hinted at potential themes for the speech and the year. Sources in the Statehouse do not know which initiatives will land in the SOTS and which will land in the budget address at the end of February.
The list starts with education reform, one piece of which was signed in Camden last week, the Urban Hope Act. By Christie’s count, there are three more bills he wants cleared before the end of the year: teacher tenure reform, charter school reform, and the Opportunity Scholarship Act.
But as far as education is concerned, this would mark the second year that Christie highlighted the need for action in his annual address. Last year he called it “perhaps the biggest thing of all for the future of our state.”
He may need a variation on that theme to avoid repetition.
One way would be to highlight higher education.
Last week in Camden, Christie ducked a question about the higher education consolidation report that was due on his desk on Dec. 31. Some sources said the contents of the UMDNJ-Rutgers merger primer report could be fodder for the SOTS. So too could be an announcement of billions of dollars in higher ed bonds to sure up the infrastructure of the colleges and universities.
Christie also let on that income tax cuts will be the next carrot on the stick as he navigates the budget process. Democrats fully expect an if-then approach to the tax cut by Christie in his speeches. As far as incentives go, two Democratic sources said they would rather see the millionaire’s tax out there. But that has a much higher political barrier for Christie, who has so far balanced his national political persona and his stateside political persona with ease.
Sick leave and civil service/shared services are also likely candidates for the SOTS, safe bets compared to the long-shot not heard ‘round the world this week.
Virginia lawmakers may join Tennessee and Indiana this year by arranging state sales tax collections from Amazon.com sales. The other states begin collections in 2014, and Christie was asked this week if he would support such an arrangement. He hastily dismissed the question. While that’s not an indicator of anything, this trending revenue builder was considered/implemented by two governors close to Christie: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Most insiders predict a zero percent chance of Christie dropping a bomb next week; no one even has a guess as to what bomb might be dropped. With Christie taking his second stab at the podium, they do expect the unusually stiff performance of last year to be one-upped. Also the over/under for references to President Ronald Reagan is 1.5, according to Statehouse handicappers.
The schedule for next week is otherwise fairly busy at the board level. The Economic Development Authority meets on Tuesday and the Board of Public Utilities meet on Wednesday. The rest of the week:
State of the State, 3 p.m., Assembly chambers, Statehouse, Trenton
Senate Re-organization Session, 2 p.m., Senate chambers, Statehouse, Trenton
Assembly Re-organization Session, 12 p.m., War Memorial, Trenton
State Mosquito Control Commission, 10 a.m., Department of Environmental Protection, Natural and Historic Resources conference room, third floor, 501 E. State St., Trenton
Economic Development Authority, 10 a.m., 36 W. State St., Trenton
Election Law Enforcement Commission, 11 a.m., 28 W. State St., Trenton
Delaware River Port Authority, 9 a.m., One Port Center, Camden
Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, 9 a.m., 39 Broadway, fourth floor, New York
Commission on Radiation Protection, 9:30 a.m., Bureau of X-ray Compliance, 25 Arctic Parkway, large conference room, Ewing
Clean Air Council, 9:30 a.m., Environmental Infrastructure Trust, 3131 Princeton Pike, Office Building 6, Suite 201, Lawrence
Division of Fish & Wildlife, Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee, 10 a.m., Central Region Office, Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, Robbinsville
Board of Public Utilities, 10 a.m., Rm. 11, Statehouse Annex, Trenton
Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, 7 p.m., Maple Place School, 2 Maple Place, Oceanport
N.J. Law Revision Commission, 10 a.m., 153 Halsey, seventh floor, Newark
Boards and Commissions
State Lottery Commission, 11 a.m., Lottery headquarters, first-floor commission meeting room, 1333 Brunswick Ave., Lawrence