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Democrats Blast Christie's Speech

Democrats brush off calls for pension reform.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, of West Deptford
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, of West Deptford
State Assembly and Senate Democrats blasted Gov. Chris Christie's State-of-the-State speech Tuesday as "disingenuous,'' focusing mainly on the governor's insistence that the state's growing pension system is in need of reform.

Christie's call for pension reform - one of the final topics of his speech - did not square with Democrats, including: State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester; Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus; Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Mt. Holly; and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.

"We are not going to break our commitment to the pension system," Sweeney, of West Deptford, said. "We are going to make the pension payments and we are not going to back off of that.''

Christie finished his speech by forcefully calling for pension reform – a call he has repeated several times in his tenure. The pension contribution and debt service, he said, takes about $1 billion out of the state’s budget.

“That’s nearly $1 billion we can spend on education,’’ he said. “That we can’t invest in infrastructure improvement. That we can’t use to put more cops on the street.” 

Christie said the “time to avoid this conversation and these choices is nearly over,’’ and called for the state Legislature to adopt an “attitude of choice.’’

"We're ready, willing and able to have an honest discussion,'' Greenwald said. "Unfortunately, that's not what we heard today.''

The Democrats also said Christie's speech failed to address critical issues, like income disparity and help for the long-term unemployed. Weinberg said Christie's policy ideas on education did not include universal pre-K, something Democrats champion.

"It works, we know it works and we should fund it,'' Weinberg said.

Sweeney said there would be room for negotiation with the Christie administration, however.

"Where we can compromise to get things done, we will," Sweeney said. "There are things we want to get done in this state.''

Beverly Durr Coulson January 14, 2014 at 06:56 PM
Did you really expect anything different.
Robert Berk January 14, 2014 at 07:02 PM
I am a democrat but totally agree with Christie on pension reform. Also on sick pay. We're breaking the bank with these ridiculous pensions for people who serve as little as 1 term
Bob January 14, 2014 at 07:46 PM
The problem with the pension system is that the state and municipalities have not been paying their share into it for almost 20 years, using that money to keep taxes lower. Meanwhile, every employee has had to continue to put their contribution in, no matter what. Then, when they realize that something is wrong, they don't take blame, but rather try and vilify every public employee as greedy. All of you people complaining I hope realize, that you taxes have been keep artificially lower on what the politicians have been doing for the past 20 years, then blaming the easiest target to garner votes.
jerseytomato January 14, 2014 at 08:08 PM
Bob - soon, New Jersey will be just like Detroit. Pensions? What pensions? All those who have served in Detroit are going without their pension paycheck because there is no money. BTW - New Jersey isn't that far behind Detroit. The city of Detroit was once the picture of a thriving economy. Thirty years ago, the Democrats took the city over - and now it's broke. Connect the dots.
Joe Fisher January 14, 2014 at 08:22 PM
Republican Gov. Christie Todd Whitman was the one who first allowed the state and municipalities to suspend making annual payments to the pension fund....
Metoo January 14, 2014 at 09:19 PM
jerseytomato, not even close to Detroit: http://ballotpedia.org/Public_pensions_in_New_Jersey
Metoo January 14, 2014 at 09:23 PM
In one breath, he touts pension reform, one that allowed him to not contribute during his 1st term, as one of his biggest achievements, now that he has to make an agreed upon payment, he says it's a problem. He wants it both ways. What a guy!
Don Gottwerth January 14, 2014 at 09:47 PM
The pension system is merciless in New Jersey. Example, I was an Irvington councilman for 2 4-year terms. If I had been re-elected for a 3rd term I would have eligibility after 10 years for a pension. Why!?! I was an Exxon employee full time, and why was I heading for a NJ pension as an elected official. But that shouldn't be! Thousands of local municipal officials were doing that while they held career jobs?! This is insane and unfair to property taxpayers being pushed to the brink. Because of crime in Irvington, I accepted only life insurance. I was on Exxon benefits adequate enough that taxpayers should not be gauged!
4Liberty January 15, 2014 at 07:05 AM
Joe actually Gov. Jim Florio began the modern era of shortchanging the pension funds in 1992 with the Pension Revaluation Act, which allowed the state to switch from using the book value of pension assets, a more conservative approach, to a market-related value, and increased the assumed rate of return for investments from 7 percent to 8.75 percent. Under the act, changes in pension asset market values are phased in over five years, which means the losses during that recession they had not yet been fully accounted for in the $46 billion unfunded liability figure. The Florio maneuver made pension funds appear to go from about 100 percent funded to 125 percent funded overnight and allowed the state to reduce contributions to the pension funds by more than $1.5 billion in 1992 and 1993. After Florio, Gov. Christie Whitman, seeking to keep her campaign promise to cut taxes while still balancing the budget, enacted the Pension Reform Act of 1994.
Gary Kuehnapfel January 15, 2014 at 07:17 AM
To 4Liberty: Gov. Whitman took the workers pension funds and used it for one shot tax candy! Then she was sued and told to put it back, which she never really did.
Jeff B January 15, 2014 at 08:25 AM
4Liberty, it is actually odd that Christie is even bringing up the pension system. With the gigantic rise in the stock market in recent years, it should be much less of an issue now than it was. In the corporate sector funding levels were going to about 96% average funding level last year versus 77% a year before.
4Liberty January 15, 2014 at 05:55 PM
My statement is fact. I am not taken sides. The fact is it started with Florio and has not stopped since. The State, Counties and municipalities have not paid their obligations. While elected officials, part-time public elected officials and their political appointees have MILKED the system. SC Judges serving one term and getting a full pension while never contributing a penny. The list of political corruption is long. Don’t blame public employees who serve you, blame the politicians who have corrupted the system. Blame yourself, if you voted for someone to bring home the BACON to your town. Sweeny is the biggest POS!
Harrison Weinstein January 16, 2014 at 12:49 AM
Harry Knowles January 17, 2014 at 09:38 PM
That Sweeney sure has a big head for nothing being between those ears but air!


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