Gov. Chris Christie began his State of the State address Tuesday by acknowledging that "mistakes were clearly made" when lanes were unexpectedly closed near the George Washington Bridge last year, apparently as a political payback scheme green-lighted by his aides.
"The last week has certainly tested this administration," he said. "Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we're entrusted to serve."
Christie said he is responsible for what happens on his watch, but assured New Jersey that the scandal "does not define us or our state," and would not get in the way of his agenda.
"This administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people’s lives in New Jersey to be delayed for any reason," Christie said.
Christie, who won re-election by 22 points in a Democratic-leaning state, hopes to regain his footing after being shaken by revelations that key aides orchestrated massive traffic backups by closing the lanes. Four Christie loyalists have been fired or resigned for the apparent political vendetta against a Democratic mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie.
The governor apologized, and during a lengthy news conference last week said he was "blindsided" by his staff's involvement.
Christie touched on the topic at the start of his speech but then quickly moved on to the economy, taking credit for the gains the state has made in creating jobs and bringing down spending.
"It's no accident how we got to this place today -- we chose the way," he said.
He also promoted the state's rising high school graduation rate and proposed lengthening both the school day and school year but did not offer details.
He promised to present choices to overhaul the state's tax system next month when he presents his budget proposal but did not offer an insight on how he might want to do that. A tax cut he proposed two years ago foundered in the Legislature.