GLOUCESTER TWP. – Unless state revenues tank, Gov. Chis Christie said in a short presser outside his town hall today, he’ll make required pension system payments for the state.
State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) shot off a press release while the governor was holding his town hall saying he’ll hold Christie’s reform bill hostage until a payment is made.
“The governor must follow the law he signed only six months ago and put money into the pension system,” Sweeney stated. “I am more than ready to sit with the governor and discuss needed reforms, but they will not move in the Senate until a check is cut, deposited and cleared.”
Asked for his response, Christie told Sweeney, not in attendance, “I intend to make it, but if I have to make cuts (to fund it), you can’t have it both ways (…) You can’t criticize the cuts, Steve.”
Christie said if the state makes “graduated, step-up” payments for the next 15 years, the current $46 billion pension deficit will be reduced to $14 billion, rather than nearly doubling with minimum payments.
Sweeney continued in his release, “We can’t expect public workers to pay more and not hold up our end of the deal any longer. If the problem is as great as the treasurer says, we can’t expect workers to shoulder the entire cost of fixing it. It doesn’t matter what else is proposed. Unless we pay into the system, it will remain broken.”
Christie said, “It’s all well and good for Sen. Sweeney to get up and say, ‘I won’t do this, I won’t do that,’ ” Christie said while mock-pounding the podium. “In the last budget cycle the Democrats didn’t propose any cuts. All they suggested was raising taxes.”
Anthony Wieners, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association said in a release: “The state PBA has for nearly a decade argued that the lack of government accountability and pension contributions would lead to this day.”
“The state and local governments have kicked the can to the end of the road and, as we have feared, law enforcement officers have become the scapegoat for years of government’s mismanagement of the pension system,” Wieners continued. “Pensions are a promise and PBA members have lived up to their end of the promise by making our pension contributions. The state and local governments must do the same if we are to have an honest discussion about preserving our pensions for the future.”
The Federal Security and Exchange Commission made New Jersey the first state slapped with a fraud suit this year for misreporting pension fund losses.
Christie said he would not call for an investigation into whom or what entity might be culpable in the fraud case. “No, I’m about fixing the problem going forward.”
Asked whether the state is prepared for a legal challenge to the pension reforms, Christie said, “If they want to sue me tell them to get in line.”
Christie’s detractors have been hanging his association with the policy-pushing, campaign contribution-circumventing organization Reform Jersey Now, especially as his reform tour has taken to the road.
Yesterday, Christie made an appointment-dump that included two prominent members of Reform Jersey Now and PolitickerNJ asked the governor today if those appointments were further proof of his close proximity to the group.
He touted his level of commitment to campaign finance transparency, noting the fact that he sent back a disclosure bill because it didn’t go far enough, and that there is nothing illegal about the groups’ activities. He has likened them to union backing for other pols.
“All of the sudden they want to change the subject,” he said, remembering “mumblings” by the Dems about introducing a bill plugging the supposed campaign financing loopholes they are concerned about. But no bill came.
“At least the people of this state know that this is my only job,” Christie said, taking a jab at dual office holders, like Sweeney, and multiple public jobholders, like Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange).
Oliver said in a statement today, “Leaders unite and build consensus. They do not divide and conquer and create enemies of the people who teach our children and protect our safety.”
“(T)he Assembly Budget Committee will review these proposals and the current state of our pension and benefits system,” she said. “But I also want a higher level of discourse. I am tired of the approach that divides our state.”
She added, “I strongly encourage the governor to sit down with the public worker unions and negotiate meaningful reforms. All sides should do this with an open mind, without acrimony and the goal of doing what’s best for all taxpayers.”