- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Republican Gov. Chris Christie called for transforming a state prison into a drug treatment facility, lashed out at the Democratic Legislature over public pensions and bashed President Barack Obama during Tuesday’s State of the State speech.

A closer look at the biggest issues to come out of Christie’s speech:

WHAT DID CHRISTIE SAY ABOUT THE PUBLIC PENSION?

Christie launched into an attack of the Democrats’ proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate the state make quarterly pension payments. The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed the proposed ballot this week, and leaders say they plan to put the measure for a vote again, ensuring it would make it on the November ballot.

The problem with the amendment is it would require deep spending cuts or unappealing tax hikes, Christie said.



“Who are you going to steal the money from in New Jersey?” Christie asked.

He asked lawmakers to raise their hands if they would support a hike in the sales or income taxes. No one did.

Christie criticized the proposal when Democrats first rolled it out this year at a luncheon before business executives and on his monthly radio show, but Tuesday’s attack on the idea was his strongest yet.

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WHAT DID CHRISTIE PROPOSE ON DRUG TREATMENT AND WHY?

Christie unveiled a plan to turn a prison near Fort Dix into a drug treatment facility for inmates. Under Christie’s plan, the facility would open next year.

“We are doing this because every life is a precious gift from God,” he said.

Christie has put considerable focus on drug treatment as governor and got attention on the presidential campaign when a video of him talking about a friend who died after suffering from drug addiction got millions of views online.

He also proposed investing $100 million to increase Medicaid and state reimbursement rates paid to providers that help poor drug addicts in the state.

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WAS CHRISTIE SPEAKING TO A LARGER AUDIENCE OR FOCUSED MORE ON NEW JERSEY?

There’s evidence Christie was speaking to both audiences. Christie assailed the president for living in a world “as he wishes it was, not the real world his failed leadership has left to all Americans.” It’s the kind of rhetoric that appeals to some Republican primary voters angry with the Democratic president. But Christie also tackled one of the highest-profile issues in New Jersey, the public pension.

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WHAT OTHER NEW PROPOSALS DID CHRISTIE MAKE?

Christie called for lawmakers to abolish the state’s estate tax. New Jersey and Maryland are the only states that levy estate and inheritance taxes. New Jersey’s estate tax has the lowest threshold in the country, at $675,000. Christie argues the tax makes the state less competitive.

Democrats balked at cutting the tax immediately, saying it could open a hole in the budget of up to $500 million, but some, like Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, have called for phasing it out over time.

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WHAT DIDN’T CHRISTIE ADDRESS?

Christie steered clear of addressing the state’s fund for bridge and roadwork, which lawmakers say will go broke this year. The fund, which is saddled with debt, will be bringing in money to cover only debt payments, leaving nothing for new projects, according to experts and legislators. Democrats have said the problem could be solved by the state’s 14.5-cent gas tax, but Christie hasn’t embraced the idea.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2017, attributed the issue’s absence to a no-tax pledge Christie made.

Christie also did not address Atlantic City’s struggles or a proposed constitutional amendment to bring casinos to northern New Jersey.

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