During the campaign for governor, Christie called for layoffs and said he could change the state worker contract that former Gov. Jon Corzine had negotiated with the unions.
But if Christie was to lay off workers, he said it would force $300 million in contractually obligated pay raises. Corzine had negotiated an 18 month hold on a 3.5% pay raise and 10 furlough days in exchange for a no-layoff pledge that lasts through 2010.
Christie made the comments at a town hall meeting in Haddon Heights, where Bloomberg quoted him calling the contract “an exquisite set of handcuffs.”
Communications Workers of America State Director Hetty Rosenstein said she was “pleased that the Governor now acknowledges that he is bound by last year’s agreement under which state workers made significant financial sacrifices in exchange for a measure of job security.”
“Over the last three years state workers have agreed to $450 million in concessions to help the state address its fiscal problems. Now it’s time for the Governor to begin a dialogue with state worker unions about how best to address the State’s fiscal problems in a way that preserves vital services for New Jersey,” she said. “We have asked to sit down with him, and are disappointed that he has not even responded to our offer.”
Corzine spokesman Josh Zeitz, however, said that Christie can, in fact, lay off state workers — not that Corzine thinks it’s a good idea. Instead, Zeitz siad, Christie is “resorting to the same whine-and-blame tactic that he’s been pressing for eight weeks” because he either does not understand the contract or “made promises during the campaign which he knew he could not keep.”
Zeitz also said that much of the raise deferral has already been realized. Those funds, he said, can not be returned to state workers, nor can the state’s savings for the 10 furlough days.
“Just more nonsense,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. “This is from the same guy who insists that we’re dealin with a $500 million budget surplus when in fact everybody but he has recognized that we’re closing a $2.2 billion budget deficit.”
Christie also announced today that he vetoed minutes from a February Delaware River Bridge Authority meeting on Friday, voiding authorization to spend an unspecified amount of over $25,000 to each of four vendors, and the authorization of a legal contract that “fails to specify any material terms… including the hourly rate of legal services, the term, or maximum annual compensation under the contract.”