New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been courting a whole lot of controversy lately. First there was "Bridgegate" (ex-Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly arranged to shut down three lanes of traffic leading to the George Washington Bridge as revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid). Now there’s a major pension problem.
The governor said he will slash two large payments to the state’s $2.43 billion pension system as a means to cover unexpected revenue shortfalls in his budget, reports The Star Ledger. New Jersey has been battling a budget gap of more than $800 million and a number of credit downgrades since Christie took office in 2010. In an attempt to save some money, Christie will now cut pension payments by $700 million starting in July; active employees will receive payments but those who have retired will not.
Christie created legislation in 2011 that required union and state workers to pay more into the pension fund through 2018.
Unions and pensioners are clearly angry about Christie's pension plan decision and several have already filed lawsuits against the governor.
“I actually feel bad for Chris Christie because he did inherit a mess,” says Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief (and New Jersey resident) Aaron Task. “Several governors going back 20 years failed to fund the state's pension plan.”
“This is an issue across the country,” notes The Daily Ticker's Henry Blodget. “We have huge pension liabilities unfunded around the country. In New Jersey it’s $52 billion, which is real money…but this sort of reveals this central tension.”
Task thinks that this may become Christie’s version of the Wisconsin union protests in 2011 which propelled Governor Scott Walker to prominence within the Republican party and put him on the shortlist of potential presidential nominees.
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