On January 10, 2017, Governor Chris Christie delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the New Jersey Legislature.
The Governor concentrated his remarks on his accomplishments over the past seven years, and his goals for the final year of his Administration. The Governor noted that during his tenure, the State saw seven consecutive years of job creation, decreasing the unemployment rate from 9.8% to 5.0%. The collective size of State, county, and local government was reduced by 31,000 employees and Discretionary State spending is $2.3 billion less today than it was nine years ago. The State contributed $6.3 billion to the State pension system since the Governor took office, double the amount that has been contributed over the past sixteen years. Governor Christie also stated that 2017 will be the first year since 1996 that New Jersey residents will see broad-based tax cuts, including a reduction in the sales tax, the phase-out of the estate tax, increases in retirement income tax exclusions, and increases in the earned income tax credit.
The Governor’s main focus for the final year of his term will be the crisis of drug addiction, and he laid out his comprehensive plan to reduce addiction and deaths from overdose, which includes:
- Improving access to treatment by having a one-stop website and phone number (1-844-ReachNJ/www.reachnj.gov) for individuals and families to get assistance;
- Directing the New Jersey Attorney General to explore limiting the amount of opioid painkillers that may be prescribed with an initial prescription to five days (rather than 30 days), and investigating practitioners that over-prescribe opioids;
- Allowing individuals aged 18 and 19 to access children’s addiction services, in order to open another 200 treatment beds for addiction services, and increasing funding to expand adult treatment capacity;
- Enacting legislation within the next 30 days that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for the first six months of inpatient or outpatient drug rehabilitation treatment;
- Expanding pediatric behavioral health for mental health and substance abuse issues;
- Implementing new specific K-12 curriculum on opioids, which includes Project Pride that brings minimum security correctional inmates into schools;
- Increasing college housing for students in recovery and increasing access to sober living/substance free housing in all municipalities;
- Working with New Jersey based companies to expand job opportunities for prior offenders;
- Creating the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Control to coordinate State and Federal resources, which will be chaired by current Schools Development Authority CEO Charles McKenna; and
- Partnering with the Federal government to allow Federal Medicaid funds to be used at inpatient treatment centers with more than 16 beds, which is currently prohibited.