Jan. 11, 2011 - Governor Chris Christie 2011 State of the State Address: Excerpted Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Excerpted Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
*/For New Jersey: It’s time to do the big things/*
So there can be no question...The debate in Trenton has changed.
We _have_ turned Trenton upside down.
But now, we must take the next step.
We must make even bigger changes in the year ahead if New Jersey is to be a place where families choose to live and work, and can afford to live and work.
It is traditional in state of the state messages to provide a long list of initiatives for the year ahead.
To touch on the plan for every department of state government.
Today, I am going to break with that tradition.
I want to highlight not the small things, but the major challenges that our state has ignored for too long, and that we must confront now.
*/For New Jersey: It’s time to do the big things./*
For this year, the biggest things fall in three categories:
·_One:_We must stick to the course of fiscal discipline.
·_Two:_We must fix our pension and health benefit systems in order to save them.
·_And three_: We must reform our schools to make them the best in the nation.
On these three, what is at stake is no less than the future of New Jersey.
First, we must continue the process of getting our fiscal house in order.
We achieved balance in fiscal year 2011, but our long-term deficit problem is far from solved.
It took years— indeed decades — to build up, so it cannot be solved in one year.
So let’s be clear.
We can’t continue to spend money we don’t have.
We can’t print money, and we can’t run deficits.
So we have to continue to make some very tough decisions about what we can afford— and what we can’t.
Next month, I will present to you my budget for fiscal year 2012.
I will guarantee you this: It will be balanced, and it will not raise taxes. …
… When I talk of controlling spending, I am doing it for a reason.
I am not proposing to cut spending just for cutting’s sake.
I am fighting this fight because we have to be truthful about what we can’t afford—whether it is health and pension benefits which are out of line with the rest of the country, or a tunnel which we can’t pay for.
I am asking for shared sacrifice so that when we leave here, New Jersey will be more fiscally sound than when we got here.
I am asking for shared sacrifice in cutting what we don’t need so that we can invest in what we absolutely _do_ need.
Some people say that getting spending under control and reforming the budget is the third rail of politics.
Well, I am here to tell you that I am not afraid to touch it— because its been said, opportunity expands in proportion to one’s courage.
So I ask you to join me in cutting the _popular_ in order to fund the _necessary_.
And I will go further than that.
So we need comprehensive tax reform -- and by that I mean changes that are considered together, not in a piecemeal approach.
In my budget next month, I will propose the initial installment of such a package.
But let's be clear: We will not put in place tax cuts that we can’t pay for.
Any economic incentive package that I will sign will be enacted in the context, and only in the context, of a balanced budget.
The second big issue we must tackle this year is our antiquated and unsustainable pension and benefit system. …
… I am not proposing pension and benefit reforms just to be tight-fisted.
I am proposing pension reform for the police officers who have served— and contributed— for years, but who may find nothing when they retire a decade from now.
I am proposing pension reform for the firefighters who every day put their lives in danger to serve the public— and who have the right to expect that when the time comes, the public will serve them.
I am proposing pension reform for the teachers who put in the extra hours every day to help their students.
We now must put in the extra hours to ensure the system is solvent for them. …
… So to every beneficiary of the system: I am fighting for _your_ pension.
And to the members of the legislature, I say: Please join me in doing so.
Now as part of our negotiation on interest arbitration, the leadership of the legislature promised to take up this necessary package of pension and benefit reforms.
Now is the time for us to finish what we started last March.
We should pass this package now.
If you do, I will immediately sign it into law.
The third critical action item for this year— perhaps the biggest thing of all for the future of our state— is education reform.
We cannot ask children and families stuck in chronically failing public schools to wait any longer.
It is not acceptable that a child who is neglected in a New Jersey school must accept it because of their zip code. …
… Here is what we must do:
We must empower principals.
We must reform poor-performing public schools or close them.
We must cut out-of-classroom costs and focus our efforts on teachers and children.
I propose that we reward the best teachers, based on _merit_, at the individual teacher level.
I demand that layoffs, when they occur, be based on a merit system and not merely on seniority.
I am committed to improving the measurement and evaluation of teachers, and I have an expert task force of teachers, principals, and administrators working on that issue right now.
And perhaps the most important step in that process is to give schools more power to remove underperforming teachers.
Now, let’s be frank.
The issues I have highlighted today are difficult. …
… no doubt, in the months ahead, we will have to fight.
Some might even say that I have been too ready for a fight— that my approach has been too tough and too combative.
That's for a reason.
It is because the fight is important.
It is vital.
The reality is I’ll fight when it matters.
It matters because I have seen what so many New Jersey families are dealing with each day.
For them this is not about politics— it is about their life.
I fight when the issues are big— when it matters the most.
Sometimes that means we won’t agree.
Sometimes you will oppose my proposals, and I will oppose yours.
Sometimes I will veto a bill.
But when I do so, it will because I genuinely believe it's in the best interest of the people of New Jersey.
In the last year, we have begun a new movement in New Jersey.
A movement back to our roots.
Back to economic dynamism and growth.
Back to pride in our State.
We cannot say today where it will lead and all that will come of it.
But we know that the path of change is better than the path of stagnation that we were on.
I was determined when I took the oath of this office to give the people an honest assessment of our problems.
To tell them the truth, even if it was difficult and my proposed solutions were unpopular.
And to this day, I ask that I be measured by that standard—I will always do what I said I was going to do.
I may not offer the easiest course, but I will be direct in saying which course I believe to be the best.