NJSPBA president goes after Christie on first day of NH tour

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As Gov. Chris Christie prepares for his first out-of-state town hall, the president of New Jersey’s police union today asked the Republican to “be honest” with the public about ongoing issues with the state’s public pension and benefit system — stressing, as he has before, that it is not “one monolithic fund that is losing money daily.”

“It would seem that Governor Christie has deemed it appropriate to travel the country in pursuit of his own career aspirations and political goals rather than stay in New Jersey and work through the significant problems that face our state,”  New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, for the more than 33,000 members of the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association who make up the majority of the membership within the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) pension system, these self-serving Town Hall meetings at home and out of state aren’t getting us any closer to a resolution to the issue at hand. It is well past time for Governor Christie to stop misleading the public on the issue of pension reform and begin working towards reasonable solutions. If the Governor actually went to New Hampshire to ‘tell it like it is’ on the pension problems facing our state, that would be a first.”

Christie embarked today on a three day “Tell it like it is” tour of the first-in-the-nation primary state, a trip he’ll use to sell Republican primary voters on his burgeoning presidential bid. He’s scheduled to appear at several GOP-organized dinners and meet and greets between now and Friday, though the highlight of the trip is expected to be the two town hall-style public forums he’s set to hold, one on Tuesday in Londonderry and another on Friday in Exeter.

During both town halls — an extension of the popular events he’s held over the course of his tenure here — Christie is expected to talk about some of the state’s more pressing issues, as well as pitch a national entitlements reform package that would have high-income seniors getting less in social security payments and paying more for health care under Medicare. The state’s pension and benefit system, which Christie has tried to reform using a similar logic, is bound to come up.

“While it may be politically expedient in advance of a potential national Republican primary to let the public believe that the PFRS is anything other than stable while continuing to refuse to make the state’s required payments, it is nothing short of irresponsible,” Colligan added. “The New Jersey pension system is not one monolithic fund that is losing money daily.  In fact, the State manages five pension plans for State and local employees and, of those five, the PFRS is financed mainly by local governments, law enforcement officers and firefighters who have been making their required pension payments.  The current funded level of the local portion of PFRS is near 80% and any reasonable review will show that PFRS is not only financially stable, but poised to grow if actuarially required payments are made by the State moving forward.  The State’s own actuary and an independent actuary hired by the PBA both confirmed this fact.”

Colligan previously criticized the governor over his handling of the state’s pension problems shortly after Christie unveiled his new “Roadmap for Reform” plan during his budget address earlier this year.

“Recently, there have been suggestions that the tone and tenor of Governor Christie’s interactions with the public at his ‘Town Hall’ meetings need to be toned down in order to increase his viability to become President of the United States.  The reality is that the Governor Christie’s message to the public on the State’s pension problem is at issue, not his delivery,” Colligan said. “It is far too easy for the Governor to try and walk away from his responsibilities when we focus on the style over the substance of his message.  Our members have willingly undertaken the responsibility to perform a dangerous and stressful job on behalf of our communities and it is critically important that the Governor be held accountable when it comes to handling his responsibility to those members.”

NJSPBA president goes after Christie on first day of NH tour