By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
“We gave the governor a jobs package, we gave him one. He vetoed it. And his job package is a hurricane. I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky a storm came. I shouldn’t say that. I apologize for saying that,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Talk about a storm. Sweeney’s comment about Gov. Chris Christie praying for a hurricane kicked up a storm of its own today.
Christie Press Secretary Michael Drewniak called it “shocking,” “politics at its worst” and said Sweeney should be “ashamed of himself.”
Half a dozen Republican legislators put out press releases denouncing the comment.
It came as Senate Democrats attempted to preempt tomorrow’s Christie State of the State Address by holding a news conference on all the economic problems of the state, as they see them.
Christie has said he’ll focus largely on Superstorm Sandy in tomorrow’s speech.
He told The Star-Ledger: “It erased the blackboard. Absent Sandy, the speech would be totally different. But once Sandy came, I can’t imagine that there’s anything else that’s relevant as governor to talk about.”
“I’ve read where the governor said ‘slate’s wiped clean.’ Well, the slate is not wiped clean,” said Sweeney. “Yes, Sandy is a crisis in this state that we are all dealing with but the slate is not wiped clean when unemployment is high, when you’ve raised taxes on the poor.”
Senate Democrats laid out a litany of economic bad news — 7 percent of New Jersey homeowners are in foreclosure, second highest foreclosure rate in the nation, the middle class here is shrinking while poverty statistics are at historic highs.
Senate Republican leader Tom Kean said the Democrats were having “temper tantrums.”
Veteran Republican lobbyist Dale Florio said Democrats are spinning their wheels in Christie’s reelection year.
“Listen, if my opponent was gonna be close to 70 percent in popularity, I’m not surprised that they’d try to put together everything but the kitchen sink today in their press conference,” Florio said.
Last year’s State of the State Address was upbeat.
“Today I am proud to report that the New Jersey Comeback has begun,” Christie said last year.
This year’s will be about rebuilding after Sandy.
Democrats say it should also be about jobs, women’s health care and getting as many New Jerseyans as possible to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Tomorrow the governor will have his say from his podium. It’ll be interesting to see whether he ignores today’s Democratic blast or confronts it head-on.