TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie appeared impervious today as he inked the pension and benefits reform legislation that he said will save residents some $132 billion over 30 years, with residents starting to see some relief in their August 2012 bills.
He was joined by approximately 60 mayors who stood behind him at the War Memorial here, many of whom publicly supported the reform legislation.
“They had put the interests of citizens ahead of their own political interests,” he said.
He pointed out that the mayors represented urban, suburban, and rural communities. Among them were Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler and Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka.
He also thanked Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, (D-21), of Westfield for being a “steadfast supporter,” Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce for keeping the large chamber in line, and Speaker Sheila Oliver, who wasn’t in attendance because of a “scheduling conflict” for displaying “extraordinary political courage.”
“It will be one of the crowning political moments of her career,” she said.
Christie said publicly for the first time he supported the controversial out-of-state provision that restricts medical care that was removed from the final bill, although he didn’t elaborate.
Christie saved the bulk of the praise for Senate President Steve Sweeney, commending him for being committed to reforming public benefits since first announcing the plan in 2006. Christie said Sweeney didn’t give up, presenting again in January “a good, responsible (health insurance) plan.”
The governor said the bills that were signed into law Tuesday afternoon were products of compromises among himself, Sweeney and Oliver.
In one of their exchanges, Christie said that in the future, there will be “disagreements” between him and Sweeney, to which Sweeney responded, “tomorrow.”
Christie then remarked, “you’re optimistic.”
Sweeney called the bill signing “a very special meeting,” saying residents will see some relief in the property taxes.
Calling himself “a labor person,” Sweeney said union leaders had been misleading their rank-and-file members, “promising sunshine when it was rain.”
“We have a monsoon now.”
DeCroce said Oliver did “a bang-up job.”