TRENTON, N.J.—Gov. Chris Christie released a report Dec. 6 urging state and local governments to cut their workers’ health
benefits by more than $4 billion a year and put that money into their pension funds. The Christie-appointed New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission recommended reducing public employees’ “platinum-plus” health benefits to the “gold” level in the Affordable Care Act, which covers only 80% of medical costs and has high monthly premiums. Christie said at a press conference that governor-elect Philip Murphy has a “Nixon goes to China” opportunity to get unions to accept that. “Gov. Christie had eight years to address the state’s pension funding failures, and he failed to do so,” responded Steve Baker, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Education Association. The governor has consistently refused to make legally mandated contributions to state pension funds, leaving them seriously underfunded, with only 60% of the money needed to cover their long-term obligations. The Christie commission also called for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing state payments to pensions over 30 years and switching future employees from guaranteed pensions to 401(k)-style retirement plans.