Gov. Chris Christie
Gov. Chris Christie (Photo by Bob Jagendorf, via Wikimedia Commons)

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday delivered his seventh and final state-of-the-state speech to the state Legislature, touting his record on economic improvements in the state and his vow to remain in office until the completion of his second and final term next year.

But he spent the majority of his speech talking about his efforts to combat drug addiction in the state, and he urged lawmakers not to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey, as many other states and municipalities are doing. He also said he would ask Attorney General Christopher Porrino to investigate the prescribing practices by the health care industry, and ordered Porrino to set regulations that limit the number of painkillers that health care providers can provide.

“Profits, by physicians or the pharmaceutical industry, should never be a rationale for contributing to the deaths of our citizens by overprescribing” opioids, Christie said.

It has been a rough year for Christie, whose job-approval rating has dropped into the teens.

Two of his closest former aides were convicted for their role in the Bridgegate scandal, in which local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were ordered closed in 2013 in retaliation after a local Democratic mayor refused to endorse him for a second term.

That scandal may have cost him a shot at the presidency. After failing to win any support, the onetime icon of the Republican Party was forced to pull out of the race in February.

After endorsing Donald Trump for president, there was rampant speculation that Christie would be tapped for vice president, attorney general or some other high-ranking post. However, none of those jobs was ever offered to him.

Christie nevertheless remained upbeat in his speech, and received moderate applause from members of the legislature.

Christie was forced to stop speaking at one point after the Rev. Joe Carter, a close ally of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, apparently fell ill and had to be escorted from the Assembly chambers.

“The state of the state is good,” Christie said in his speech, adding that his administration has kept its promise to reduce the “outlandish” growth of government.

He said 10,000 state-level public jobs and 21,000 county- and local-level public jobs have been eliminated since he took office in 2010.

Christie also touted a reduction in the state’s unemployment level, which he said has dropped from 9.8 percent when he took office to 5 percent now.

He also congratulated legislators for working with him to save the state’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund, which is used to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements, by increasing the gas tax to 35.5 cents per gallon, from 14.5 cents per gallon. In exchange, lawmakers agreed to eliminate the estate tax and to gradually decrease the state’s sales tax to 6.625 percent from 7 percent.

Christie has been criticized for failing to make payments into the pension systems for retired public workers, and for reneging on a 2011 pledge to make regular payments into the systems in exchange for reduced benefits and increase contributions.

He promised, however, to make a $1.9 billion contribution into the pension systems this upcoming fiscal year.

Christie spent much of the time talking about his efforts to reduce drug addiction and increase drug treatment programs. He encouraged legislators to work with him in increasing drug-treatment efforts, especially for those addicted to opioids.

“What I am absolutely unwilling to accept is inaction,” he said. “I will not have the blood of New Jerseyans on my hands by failing to act.”

He urged changes in state regulations and statutes so that 18- and 19-year-olds can be treated at state-owned treatment facilities. He also recommended that insurers be barred from denying coverage for those who are seeking up to six months of residential or outpatient treatment.

Christie also announced the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Control, which will be headed by Charles McKenna, his former chief counsel who now is the chief executive office of the Schools Development Authority, and criticized the push to legalize recreational marijuana.

“If you try any drug by the age of 13, you have a 70 percent chance of developing addiction in the next seven years,” Christie said. “Addicted by the time you are 20 years old. I hope that this will give pause to those who are blindly pushing ahead to legalize another illicit drug in our state for tax revenue or by saying it will cause no harm.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state has made a hotline available for those seeking help with addiction by calling 1-844-REACH-NJ, or by going to REACHNJ.com.

As a treatment success story, Christie touted a former aide, A.J. Solomon, the son of state Supreme Court Justice Lee Solomon and Board of Public Utilities Commissioner Dianne Solomon, who has remained sober for several years after becoming addicted to heroin and who is now opening a treatment center in southern New Jersey.

“Nothing could personify God’s work here on earth more than saving lives,” Christie said. “That mission is my mission over the next 373 days as governor.”

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday delivered his seventh and final state-of-the-state speech to the state Legislature, touting his record on economic improvements in the state and his vow to remain in office until the completion of his second and final term next year.

But he spent the majority of his speech talking about his efforts to combat drug addiction in the state, and he urged lawmakers not to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey, as many other states and municipalities are doing. He also said he would ask Attorney General Christopher Porrino to investigate the prescribing practices by the health care industry, and ordered Porrino to set regulations that limit the number of painkillers that health care providers can provide.

“Profits, by physicians or the pharmaceutical industry, should never be a rationale for contributing to the deaths of our citizens by overprescribing” opioids, Christie said.

It has been a rough year for Christie, whose job-approval rating has dropped into the teens.

Two of his closest former aides were convicted for their role in the Bridgegate scandal, in which local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were ordered closed in 2013 in retaliation after a local Democratic mayor refused to endorse him for a second term.

That scandal may have cost him a shot at the presidency. After failing to win any support, the onetime icon of the Republican Party was forced to pull out of the race in February.

After endorsing Donald Trump for president, there was rampant speculation that Christie would be tapped for vice president, attorney general or some other high-ranking post. However, none of those jobs was ever offered to him.

Christie nevertheless remained upbeat in his speech, and received moderate applause from members of the legislature.

Christie was forced to stop speaking at one point after the Rev. Joe Carter, a close ally of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, apparently fell ill and had to be escorted from the Assembly chambers.

“The state of the state is good,” Christie said in his speech, adding that his administration has kept its promise to reduce the “outlandish” growth of government.

He said 10,000 state-level public jobs and 21,000 county- and local-level public jobs have been eliminated since he took office in 2010.

Christie also touted a reduction in the state’s unemployment level, which he said has dropped from 9.8 percent when he took office to 5 percent now.

He also congratulated legislators for working with him to save the state’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund, which is used to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements, by increasing the gas tax to 35.5 cents per gallon, from 14.5 cents per gallon. In exchange, lawmakers agreed to eliminate the estate tax and to gradually decrease the state’s sales tax to 6.625 percent from 7 percent.

Christie has been criticized for failing to make payments into the pension systems for retired public workers, and for reneging on a 2011 pledge to make regular payments into the systems in exchange for reduced benefits and increase contributions.

He promised, however, to make a $1.9 billion contribution into the pension systems this upcoming fiscal year.

Christie spent much of the time talking about his efforts to reduce drug addiction and increase drug treatment programs. He encouraged legislators to work with him in increasing drug-treatment efforts, especially for those addicted to opioids.

“What I am absolutely unwilling to accept is inaction,” he said. “I will not have the blood of New Jerseyans on my hands by failing to act.”

He urged changes in state regulations and statutes so that 18- and 19-year-olds can be treated at state-owned treatment facilities. He also recommended that insurers be barred from denying coverage for those who are seeking up to six months of residential or outpatient treatment.

Christie also announced the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Control, which will be headed by Charles McKenna, his former chief counsel who now is the chief executive office of the Schools Development Authority, and criticized the push to legalize recreational marijuana.

“If you try any drug by the age of 13, you have a 70 percent chance of developing addiction in the next seven years,” Christie said. “Addicted by the time you are 20 years old. I hope that this will give pause to those who are blindly pushing ahead to legalize another illicit drug in our state for tax revenue or by saying it will cause no harm.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state has made a hotline available for those seeking help with addiction by calling 1-844-REACH-NJ, or by going to REACHNJ.com.

As a treatment success story, Christie touted a former aide, A.J. Solomon, the son of state Supreme Court Justice Lee Solomon and Board of Public Utilities Commissioner Dianne Solomon, who has remained sober for several years after becoming addicted to heroin and who is now opening a treatment center in southern New Jersey.

“Nothing could personify God’s work here on earth more than saving lives,” Christie said. “That mission is my mission over the next 373 days as governor.”