As the Discovery Channel’s popular television series ‘Shark Week’ kicks off again this year, the New Jersey chapter of the Communication Workers of America is taking the opportunity to tear into the state’s top executive on their favorite issue: pension and benefit reform.
Though it may be ‘Shark Week’ on Discovery, in Gov. Chris Christie’s office, according to the CWA, it’s ‘Shirk Week.’
In a video released today, the CWA blasted Christie for his handling of the state’s ailing pension and benefit system, accusing him of continuing to “shirk responsibility” on the issue by refusing to make slated pension contributions and reneging on early promises to appropriately support the fund. It’s not the first time the union has clashed with Christie — the two are currently in a legal battle over the governor’s cuts to this year’s contribution — but it is the latest jab in the struggle over the fund.
“Christie didn’t only break his word when it came to funding the pension. He also broke the very law he signed and touted as a “major accomplishment.” Gone is the fanfare. Gone is the chest-thumping. And gone are the taxpayer-funded banners proclaiming the “Jersey Comeback,” Joshua Henne, a political consultant at White Horse Strategies, said in a statement accompanying the video release.
The video, which features video clips of Christie talking about pension and benefit reform and excerpts from news headlines about the issue, comes more than a month after Christie signed the state’s latest budget, which opted to slash $1.57 billion from a required payment for the workers’ retirement fund in order to help plug a growing budget defecit. It also comes less than a week after Christie announced the formation of a bipartisan commission tasked with evaluating and coming up with recommendations to fix the system, which currently faces nearly $40 billion in unfunded liablities.
Henne and the CWA lamented Christie’s “limp lack of leadership.”
“It’s simple: New Jersey’s pension doesn’t need a commission or a study stocked with a handful of super-wealthy people unlikely to have any clue as to what it means to live on a fixed-income. The pension needs to be fully funded, as promised and required by law,” Henne said.
While Democratic legislators in the state have proposed other options for funding the system — lawmakers in Trenton for example tried to pass a budget that included tax hikes for the state’s wealthiest residents, for example — Christie has remained steadfast, saying last week that “it’s time to think out of the box and be prepared to abandon the sacred cows that have long been off limits in reforming our entitlement programs.” He’s made the argument a central theme of his “no pain, no gain,” summer town hall tour, where two weeks ago he said he’d unveil a proposal by the end of the summer to overhaul the system for public workers.