February 27, 2015
By Charles Wowkanech, President, NJ State AFL-CIO
A New Jersey Superior Court Judge has taken Governor Chris Christie to task in a ruling that forces him to contribute his share to the New Jersey State pension system, just as public workers have been doing all along.
Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and 16 unions who sued Christie for violating his own 2011 pension reform law by intentionally shorting the system. The judge ordered Christie to make a $1.6 billion payment to the pension system this year.
Public-sector workers accepted steep increases in their health care and pension costs in 2011 in exchange for a promise that the state would start paying what it owed. Retirees gave up cost of living adjustments in exchange for the security of knowing their benefits would continue to be there. Public workers have never skipped their contribution. The governor is the only one who has not lived up to the deal. It’s as if he is intentionally trying to bankrupt the system to force public workers into 401(k)s.
Christie’s lawyers argued that the 2011 law – which the governor initiated, promoted and signed – was unconstitutional. It was an argument that bewildered virtually everyone, including the judge, and proved beyond doubt that Christie has no credibility on the issue.
Now he’s at it again. In an otherwise empty budget address, the governor proposed — wait for it — putting the squeeze on public worker benefits again. As New Jersey residents can clearly see, the governor has been blinded by his own political ambitions and hasn’t been acting in the state’s best interest for a very long time. Christie touted the 2011 pension reform law as a landmark achievement that would ultimately save the state pension system. Instead of blaming public workers for a problem they didn’t create, we’re asking that the governor live up to the law he signed and fully fund pensions.