Public employee unions angry at budget address

TRENTON – Public employee unions struck a class warfare tone after hearing Gov. Chris Christie’s budget address.

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) called it a “slash and burn budget proposal” that will hurt  Garden State families.

“Gov. Christie has proposed an irresponsible budget that will continue to harm New Jersey families and our state’s economy,”  said AFSCME Council #1 Executive Director Sherryl Gordon.

“His proposal is disrespectful to the hard-working men and women of this state, and someone has to stand up for them.”

AFSCME has 40,000 members who work in New Jersey.

Ann Twomey, spokeswoman for the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, said the governor “was once again playing the blame game.”

“He continues to blame the workers for the economic problems,” she said. “The hospitals are in financial turmoil and they’re going to need more help.”

The 15 percent cut that Christie proposed Tuesday for the Department of Health and Senior Services was too drastic, according to Twomey.

At least one item, Charity Care, which funds hospital care services for poor people, did see an increase, from $665 million to $675 million.  

Another official, Bob Master, legislative and political director of CWA District #1, which has about 50,000 employees in New Jersey, said Christie’s budget address was more of the same.

“He wants people to continue the shared sacrifice except the people who’re most able to afford them,” he said, referring to millionaires.

Master said it was “totally manipulative” for Christie to say he would make the $500 million payment to the pension system if the Legislature adopts his pension reform package that is part of his “tool kit.”

“It’s totally rewriting history,” he said. “It’s not a birthday gift. The state should be required to make payments every year. It’s their obligation. They treated it as an optional cost to the state.”

Like past governors, Christie skipped last year’s pension contribution of about $3 billion.

Public employee unions angry at budget address