Moments after winning election in 2009, Chris Christie declared
that he was going to turn Trenton "upside down."
After three full years in office, it's clear the Republican governor, now seen by many as a likely presidential candidate in 2016, has put his stamp on much of state government.
He placed a tighter cap on property tax increases. He convinced lawmakers to pass a bill changing teacher tenure rules for the first time in a century.
He made public employees pay more for their pension and health benefits and worked with the Democrats who control the state Legislature to reorganize New Jersey's higher education system.
Christie's work in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy last fall, including his unhesitant partnering with President Obama right before the presidential election, also stands in contrast with the partisan gridlock that has gripped much of Washington, D.C. The governor now has approval ratings over 70 percent as he prepares to kick off his 2013 reelection campaign.
"I said that we were going to go to Trenton and we were going to turn it upside down," Christie said last year, echoing his victory speech. "We've turned Trenton upside down."
But the outspoken governor has also fallen short of the dramatic changes he hoped for in several priority areas. And despite Christie's regular talk of bipartisanship in Trenton, he remains in deep conflict with Democrats on many issues, including same-sex marriage, minimum wage and the makeup of the state Supreme Court.
Here is a breakdown of Christie's impact on the state -- and his unfinished business -- as he heads into the final year of this term:
Property taxes: Christie devoted much of his first years in office to working on the property tax issue and, at this point, can claim a partial victory. While property tax bills continue to rise, the rate of growth has slowed under his 2 percent cap. But a $1 billion budget hole he inherited amid a recession in 2010 forced Christie to significantly reduce state funding for property tax relief and towns now have begun hiking fees to get around the cap, with new reforms not yet in place to stop that from occurring.
Economy: Despite the governor's much-promoted attempts to stimulate economic development with tax cuts and lucrative corporate tax incentives, state revenues have only slowly rebounded after years of recession. Unemployment in New Jersey is right about where it was when he took office in late January 2010, a full 2 percentage points higher than the current national jobless rate of 7.8 percent. Christie has also yet to act on a bill that would increase the state's minimum wage and tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index, something he has threatened to veto.
Education: One of Christie's biggest first-term accomplishments came when he convinced the Legislature to pass a bill that redrew teacher tenure rules. Now it takes longer to get tenure, it's easier to revoke, and there is a new mentor and review process. Christie believes the move will improve student performance, especially in the poorest communities where the state subsidizes the schools with billions of dollars in aid.
And despite complaints from the state's most powerful teachers union about the governor's treatment of them, the Christie administration is spending as much as any previous administration on
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