With few specifics, speech just another press event
As far as feel-good speeches go, rank Chris Christie's State of the State address last week up there with the best of them. It had all the right references to first responders who gave their all during and after Hurricane Sandy struck, and it continued his wildly popular excoriation of the federal government's foot-dragging on the hurricane relief bill.
But that could — and has — been done in press conferences. The State of the State is supposed to aspire to be something bigger than just a call for bipartisanship and talk of comebacks. At least in the days of the short-lived, and much-flogged, Jersey Comeback, there was a real point on the table — the 10 percent income tax cut. Perhaps Christie has merely learned his lesson about making such grand promises, but it would have been preferable to the campaign speech we got last week. At least his opponents have been as ham-handed as Elmer Fudd; Steve Sweeney's comment that Christie got "lucky" with the disaster is as asinine as you can get.
While we're on learning lessons, the governor needs one in optimism, too. In making his case for the income tax cut, he relied upon economic forecasts so rosy that "Garden State" seemed to be more than a motto — it was a revenue target. Instead, there's a budget gap of some $700 million to deal with. Now, he expects a post-Sandy building boom to be a major revenue generator. We will undoubtedly see an uptick as rebuilding gets under way, but the outlook for tourism is far from assured — and if people don't return to the Shore in droves come Memorial Day, it'll be the death knell to local business and the state economy.
The economy has taken steps forward under Christie, but it's not doing so fast enough. It would have been a much bolder course to see the governor lay out his plan for creating more jobs and fixing our endless revenue problems. Giving voters plenty of red meat from Sandy is a way to get those approval ratings up now, but fixing his spotty economic record will pay better dividends in November — and will assure business owners that there's some kind of plan going forward.