TRENTON – The Democratic leadership gathered following Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address, and they didn’t have such a bright outlook.
The governor talked about staying the course, and state Democratic Party Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) said, “My God I hope not.”
State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) responded to Christie by claiming the Democrats already had him beat to the punch on pretty much everything, including pension and arbitration reforms.
“Ninety-nine percent of New Jersey experienced pain, millionaires didn’t,” he said of Christie’s first year in office.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) said the governor offered a “description of Chris Christie’s New Jersey.”
“There is a New Jersey that the governor did not describe,” she said, one that suffers from significant cuts to municipalities, a lack of affordable housing, and failing school districts.
On the pension and benefit reform, she said, “The legislature is there already” – and called for a return of bipartisan support from Christie on job creation and economic expansion.
“He’s in denial about the increasing numbers on the long-term unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months who have just given up looking for nonexistent jobs,” state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) said. “The only thing he didn’t take credit for.”
Picking up on the thematic word “realistic” from the governor’s speech, Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D- Voorhees) said, “The time now is for a reality check.”
“There are more people out of work today than when Gov. Christie took office,” he said. “This governor did not cut taxes, but passed that burden to the local communities and the (taxpayers) around this state.”
Using a housing metaphor, he said of the state’s problems, “It’s not a fixer-upper. It’s a tear down and rebuild.”
He finished by creating a stalemate with Christie, who did not include a payment to the state’s pension system in last year’s budget: “No reform can take place when a governor refuses to make a pension payment.”
The problem is, Christie said in his speech that the state’s pension payment will come after reforms are enacted.
“If we can make real reform a reality, the state must also begin to make its pension contributions,” Christie said.
Sweeney said there is no stalemate because the Democrats have already handled pension reform.
“We proposed the reforms,” he said, that create a private sector infrastructure for the pension system. “It takes all the politics out of it.”
“We already did the reforms. He needs to sign the check,” Sweeney said alter calling Christie’s reforms illegal.
Asked if they noticed the governor’s toned-down demeanor, Oliver said Christie learned from his first year. “A baseball bat and bullhorn is not the way to effectively get things done.”
Sweeney added: “He saw his poll numbers. He knows how to read a poll.”