TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie will deliver his annual State of the State speech, facing pressure from both state and national audiences.
In New Jersey, Christie has been facing calls to address several pressing issues: He’s promised for months to announce his proposals to further reduce pension and benefits obligations to state workers after scaling back promised payments into the pension system. And the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for bridge and tunnel repairs, is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, Christie appears ever-closer to launching a campaign for president, giving the speech added significance.
Christie’s Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox told reporters Monday that the state’s transportation fund needs to be replenished “sooner rather than later.” Asked whether that meant increasing the state’s low gas tax — a potentially unpopular move in a GOP primary — he said, “I’ve been making that argument, that the time to do it is now.”
He said he hadn’t discussed the speech with the governor, but knows the issue is “very high” on Christie’s agenda.
Christie is expected to spend much of his address touting his record in office as he prepares for a potential presidential run.
“This is the pre-launch speech of his campaign,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, who spent 20 years working in presidential politics.
Tittel, a frequent critic of the governor, said he expected Christie to try to use the speech to establish new momentum after moves by potential rivals like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Critics also will be taking advantage of the interest. Advocates are planning to hold what they’re calling a “State of OUR State” address in advance of the speech on the statehouse steps Tuesday morning, in protest of Christie administration policies they say have failed New Jersey’s working families.
Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance, which is helping to organize the event, said it was aimed at juxtaposing reality with what she described as the governor’s “regular annual spin.”
Associated Press writer Dave Porter contributed to this report.
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