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Christie's State Of The State Focuses On Sandy


New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie is a little less vocal about the lack of federal aid after Hurricane Sandy - a little less vocal, but not a lot.


Last week, the Republican governor denounced his own party's leaders in the House of Representatives. They declined to vote on Storm Aid, as the last Congress expired last week.

INSKEEP: House Republicans promised their moving now, but the job is not done, and yesterday Governor Christie delivered his annual State of the State speech.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Governor Christie said last week that he felt betrayed after fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives failed to advance all of a $60 billion Sandy aid package. Yesterday in Trenton, Christie didn't specifically mention his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill but he did talk about the 72 days his state has waited for federal help.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Seven times longer than the victims of Hurricane Katrina waited. And one thing I hope everyone in America now clearly understands, New Jersey, both Republicans and Democrats, will never stand silent when our citizens are being shortchanged.

BRADY: Christie's speech contained no new policy objectives. It was designed to boost morale in a state where he said 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Sandy. Christie told stories of heroic New Jersey residents, like emergency room technician Marsha Hedgepeth.

CHRISTIE: Facing several feet of water on her flooded street, she swam - she swam - to higher ground; then she hitchhiked with a utility worker from Michigan.

BRADY: The governor says it was her day off but that Hedgepeth made it to the hospital and worked a 12-hour shift. Christie also praised the 17,000 utility workers who came from around the country to restore power after the storm. But the big message remained a call for federal aid and fairness.

CHRISTIE: We stood, we have stood with the citizens of Florida and Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, Iowa and Vermont, California and Missouri in their times of need. Now, I trust they will stand with us.

BRADY: Among the applauding lawmakers were a few mayors from hard-hit Jersey shore communities.

MAYOR DINA LONG: In terms of what I heard today about his speech, I would say that there was not a lot of specifics offered.

BRADY: Dina Long is mayor of Sea Bright, New Jersey.

LONG: We have had lots of moral support in the days post-Sandy, and unfortunately the financial support hasn't shown up yet. And so that's what we hope for in the days ahead.

BRADY: Nearby is Tom Kelaher, mayor of Toms River. He says federal aid is sorely needed in his township.

TOM KELAHER: We've lost at least 20 percent of our tax base. We need all the help we can to close that, and I think that'll help if we get that money.

BRADY: The U.S. Senate already has passed a $60 billion Sandy aid package. The House approved part of it last week and is expected to consider the rest of the package next week. Asked if Governor Christie should do more to help towns like his, Mayor Kelaher had only praise.

KELAHER: I couldn't think of anything else, and if I had - if he was standing right here now and he said what do you want, I don't think there's anything I could ask.

BRADY: Polls show Governor Christie enjoys a healthy job approval rating after Superstorm Sandy. That may be helpful for reelection later this year. And it could explain why much of his State of the State speech focused on the storm. But Democrats in New Jersey are trying to change the conversation. After Christie's speech, Democratic Assemblyman Lou Greenwald wanted to talk about the economy and the state's 9.6 percent unemployment rate.

LOU GREENWALD: A recent study that we just saw showed that New Jersey is the highest in the country of out-migration of New Jersey residents. That is a number that should alarm us. That is that people have lost hope and are leaving the state of New Jersey to live and chase their dreams elsewhere.

BRADY: And in spite of years of storm recovery ahead, in New Jersey another election season is underway. Jeff Brady, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.

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