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Christie warns of pension troubles again

Tuesday, February 24, 2015   (0 Comments)
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NJ.com 02/21/15

Though he has still yet to present a specific plan on how to fix it, Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday night warned yet again that New Jersey's troubled public-worker pension system threatens to derail the state's finances. "What we need to do going forward is to avoid, if we can, confrontation on this issue, and to reach out and cooperate," the Republican governor said during a speech in front of hundreds of state lawmakers, mayors, business leaders, and lobbyists at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner at a D.C. hotel. At the end of 2014, unfunded liabilities for the pension system — which includes thousands of government workers — was $37 billion, the fourth-highest in the nation.

Christie and Democratic state lawmakers ushered in reforms in 2011, calling for the state to make full payments to the system each year after years of governors short-changing it and for workers to pay more for their pension and health benefits. But Christie has said for months that the overhaul didn't go far enough and that more reforms are needed. He appointed a bipartisan commission of pension experts last August to present possible solutions by the end of the year. The panel, though, has yet to produce a final report. Union leaders and Democrats have bashed Christie's call for more reforms, saying he reneged on his promise to make full pension payments by cutting millions in scheduled payments to cover a gap in the current state budget.

Unions also have taken the issue to court. A state Superior Court is expects to decide soon whether Christie violated the 2011 deal when he shorted this and last year's pension payments to balance the current state budget. On Thursday, Christie said union leaders need to work with him to fix the issue because pension costs will crowd out "every other type of spending" in the state, including money for education, health services, and other programs. "Ultimately, this is as much their problem as it is our problem." the governor said.

 

 


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