Republicans and Democrats on the Assembly Budget Committee seem largely in agreement over whether the state’s latest credit downgrading is bad for the economy, and even what motivated it — but when it comes to dishing out the blame, opinions diverge predictably.
The committee’s chair, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), said today that the development is “a reflection of the administration’s lack of a long-term financial plan for the state,” which has had it’s bond rating downgraded nine times since Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2011, in a big way because of the struggle to fix a chronically underfunded pension system.
Schaer said Democrats — who have called for a millionaire’s tax to raise the necessary revenues to cover the costs of the state’s pension obligations — would have avoided it.
“Recognizing the ensuing dire consequences of not taking action, Democrats acted with foresight last year and presented the Governor with a budget that would have fully funded the pension system and put us on the path to financial wellbeing,” Schaer said. “The Governor’s veto of that budget was a precursor for the unfortunate news we’ve received today.”
But Assembly Republican Budget Officer Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) begged to differ. O’Scanlon said the downgrading clearly signals that further reforms to the pension systems are needed — and it’s Democrats who are refusing to address the issue.
“Moody’s couldn’t have made this any clearer. The Legislature’s failure to further provide pension reform is responsible for the state’s structural imbalance,” O’Scanlon said. “We need to enact further reforms to the pension system as soon as possible.”
“Trenton Democrats, who are in the majority, would rather play politics than partner across the aisle and with the administration to work on the reforms needed to make our state affordable and fix the system for current and future public employees,” he added.
They weren’t the only ones to sound off. Christie too chalked the downgrading up to the state’s shaky fiscal footing, saying that it only offers more reason to move forward with the controversial pension plan overhauls he’s touted across the state and in New Hampshire this week.
Meanwhile Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) — who’s become increasingly publicly critical of the Republican’s leadership on the state’s economic and financial fronts — argued the downgrading is a direct result of Christie’s refusal to fund the system.