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Christie’s Call For Pension Concessions Sets Up Budget Battle With Sweeney


Christie’s Call For Pension Concessions Sets Up Budget Battle With Sweeney

Governor’s State of the State initiatives target a familiar foe — public employee unions

Gov. Chris Christie yesterday called for a new round of public employee pension concessions, setting the stage for a bitter budget battle with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) over changes to their landmark pension legislation — a confrontation in which Christie holds the ultimate power.

After a brief apology for the “Bridgegate” scandal that is already the subject of five investigations, Christie used his State of the State speech to argue that “further pension changes are needed” because the annual payments required to restore the pension system to solvency prevent the state from increasing the funding for education, crime prevention, infrastructure, and other needed programs or enacting a tax cut.

“For the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, the increase in pension and debt service costs could amount to as much as nearly $1 billion,” Christie declared. “That’s nearly $1 billion we can’t spend on education. That we can’t invest in infrastructure improvement. That we can’t use to put more cops on the street.”

“If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension and debt-service costs, we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few,” he said, once again pitting the interests of the general public against those of public employees and their unions.

In fact, virtually every initiative in Christie’s State of the State speech targeted public employee unions, from his demand for zero payments for unused sick leave and Civil Service changes to reduce union protections in municipal consolidations to his push for extended school hours and an extended school year without any discussion of whether teachers would be paid for the additional work.

“This State of the State speech comes straight out of the Christie playbook we all know: When times are tough, he attacks public-sector workers and their unions,” Milly Silva, the executive vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 who ran against Christie’s ticket as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in November, said last night. “This is going to set up a major battle with the Legislature.” (Magyar/NJSpotlight)

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