Governors Kick Off Legislative Sessions

Two of the country's most prominent Republican governors opened their states' legislative sessions with state of the state speeches from different vantage points.

One day after a strong revenue projection for the upcoming two years, Texas Governor Rick Perry looked forward, cautiously optimistic about the state's fiscal future but warning lawmakers against spending freely and giving in to the requests of special interests, “who view Monday's revenue estimate as the equivalent of ringing a dinner bell.”

Monday's revenue report indicated that the state is poised to take in nearly $9 billion above projections for the current two-year budget, which has led some Democrats in the state to urge for the restoration of some cuts during the previous budget session, in 2011, particularly a $5.4 billion cut to education that partially led to a major education funding lawsuit against the state.

Perry's speech focused on budgetary changes, cutting taxes and reducing fees, along with social issues such as drug tests for welfare and unemployment recipients and a ban on late-term abortions.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie's speech looked mostly backward, focusing heavily on Hurricane Sandy and recovery efforts, with the bombastic governor offering thanks to first responders and out-of-state relief workers, while renewing his criticism of Congress for failing to authorize a relief bill.

“New Jersey, both Republicans and Democrats, will never stand silent when our citizens are being short changed,” he said.

Facing re-election this year, Christie used the speech as an opportunity to tout the achievements of his administration, citing spending cuts, private sector job growth and a property tax cap, and called on legislators to “put aside destructive politics in an election year.”

Democrats, who control both chambers of the New Jersey legislature were immediately critical of Christie's speech for being short on specifics about how the state will continue to recover from Sandy and add more jobs.

“He really needs to tell towns how they will get through things,” said Stephen Sweeney, the Democratic president of the state Senate and potential Christie opponent, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Elsewhere, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, also a Republican, spoke of improving the state's infrastructure and services to meet the needs of a growing population that is due, in large part, to the state's oil boom during the past several years.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, will deliver his state of the state address today and is expected to propose one of the country's toughest bans on assault weapons, according to The New York Times.