TRENTON – It was Gov. Chris Christie’s time to shine – again.
Buoyed by sky-high approval ratings – reaching as high as 78 percent, according to one survey – and by a Time magazine cover story declaring him “boss,” Christie’s star seems to be rising with each passing day.
And, the annual ritual that is the State of the State speech gave the popular governor the opportunity to remind residents he is their caring leader who is steering the state on a road to recovery from the devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy.
During his address on Tuesday, there were stories about local heroes, about little Ginjer, and about the collective spirit of all New Jerseyans working to overcome the physical and emotional setbacks of last year’s storm. It was a speech about being patient, persistent and remaining hopeful for a strong New Jersey.
However, Democrats were quick to say that while Christie has been doing a fine job in that area, he has been underperforming in addressing long-standing “core problems,” and the state is far from recovering from high unemployment and low revenues. The fact that Christie’s address made little or no mention of those problems was glaring to them.
The Democratic leaders unveiled a litany of gripes, including the high number of foreclosures, joblessness, crime in the state’s inner cities, persistent revenue shortfalls, and little progress on addressing income inequality.
Even though he immediately apologized and said he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, Senate President Steve Sweeney on Monday said that Sandy has provided a shield for the governor, because all of the state’s core problems have more or less been overshadowed by the need to rebuild from Sandy.
“We gave the governor a jobs package … [and] he vetoed it. And his job package was a hurricane. I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky a storm came,” Sweeney said.
A couple of important fiscal reports were unveiled the past week, neither of which was upbeat.
The state will end the fiscal year with a $288 million revenue shortfall, according to a Treasury Department audit, and casino revenues for the month of December showed a 9 percent drop from the same month in 2011.
New Jersey already has some of the country’s strongest gun laws. Nonetheless, some are calling for even more stringent checks in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Assemblyman Joe Cryan, (D-20) of Union, has introduced a bill that calls for gun buyers to undergo mental health screenings.
Another bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, (D-32), West New York, would go even further, calling for home searches before an applicant could purchase a gun.
These bills were introduced in a week in which the governor said that gun restrictions alone would not solve the overriding problem, but that a comprehensive approach including mental health programs and other initiatives is called for.