- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Republican Gov. Chris Christie addressed some, but not all, of a handful of pressing questions during his State of the State address Tuesday.

Those wondering whether New Jersey is doing better, whether their taxes will rise, if the public pension system will be funded or whether he will run for president heard insights but nothing definitive.

Here are five questions and answers on how New Jersey residents could be affected by the thoughts outlined in Christie’s speech.

Q: Is New Jersey doing better, worse or about the same as it was a year ago?

A: The answer depends on which metrics you look at and whom you ask. Christie said the state “continues to get better.” Its unemployment figures are improving. New Jersey’s 6.4 percent rate has been dropping steadily since it peaked during the recession at 9.7 percent in 2010. The state also has seen private-sector jobs grow by about 150,000 over five years, but it has lagged behind neighboring states. Christie touts those figures as an improvement. Democrats in the Legislature, on the other hand, say the state should be doing better. New Jersey was tied for the 35th highest unemployment rate in the country in November.

Q: Are any of my taxes going to go up?

A: It’s unclear. Christie philosophically opposes tax increases and he explicitly said he would veto income tax increases. But, with the transportation trust fund expected to be out of money for new road and bridge work by June 30, some lawmakers are discussing increasing the state’s 14.5 cent gasoline tax. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the fact that Christie did not rule out a gas tax increase gave him hope the governor might be willing to consider such a proposal. Christie, though, did not address the transportation trust fund in his address. Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. defended Christie’s decision to gloss over some of the state’s most pressing issues and said they will be focused on in his budget plan.

Q: Are my taxes going to go down?

A: That’s also unclear. Christie used the recent example of Mercedes-Benz’s decision to move to Georgia as a reason for lowering taxes to appeal to business interests. He called on lawmakers to lower tax rates, but Senate President Steve Sweeney did not sound receptive. “Who wouldn’t want to cut taxes? We all do,” Sweeney said. “But we cannot put this state in a further hole.”

Q: Will Christie fund the public pension and health benefits funds?

A: Christie backed out of a deal he brokered with Democrats after a budget shortfall last year. In return for giving up cost-of-living increases and for more public worker contributions, the state would give back money to the funds over seven years. Unions have sued Christie over the action, and Democrats are angry with him for what they view as his reneging on a deal. In his speech, Christie called for a long-term solution and pointed out he created a panel to review the issue. Democratic lawmakers said they have not heard from the panel and have no sense of when they might, and Sweeney is skeptical of coming to a new agreement with Christie.

Q: Is Christie going to run for president?

A: The speech suggested he is thinking about a broader, national stage. He mentioned a national “anxiety” and called for renewal in America as well as in New Jersey. He also talked about voters in Chicago, Maryland and Florida he met in the last year. He suggested he would be present for next year’s speech. “(When) we stand here in one year - by the way, I’ll be standing here in one year…,” he said, departing from his prepared remarks.

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