Christie Says NJ’s Budget Problems are Almost Solved
Gov. Chris Christie has said that is the case, but the chair of the state Senate Budget Committee adamantly disagreed during a hearing at which the state treasurer testified.
"We have solved most of the budget problems in this state," Christie said on "Ask the Governor" in February. "This is the last big, remaining problem. If we can fix this pension and health benefits problem, then we will have fixed, substantially, the budget issues in New Jersey."
At Tuesday's budget panel hearing, chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) said he heard Christie's comments and found them hard to accept.
"Today, New Jersey ranks 44th in economic growth and 49th in job growth, and we have only recovered 64 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession," Sarlo said.
Plenty of budget problems remain, according to Sarlo, and he accused the governor of not doing enough to address those issues.
"The budget before me, from what I can see, contains no new initiatives to create jobs, to restore the Earned Income Tax Credit or property tax relief programs, or to engender middle class prosperity in this state where wealth flows to the top 1 percent," Sarlo said.
On "Ask the Governor," Christie did not say -- and he has never said -- that absolutely every problem would be solved with pension and health benefits reforms.
During his latest town hall meeting, Christie said that in the 15 years before he became governor, five different governors, both Republicans and Democrats, paid a total of $3.4 billion into the pension system. Christie said he has contributed $4.2 billion during his time in office.
The pension system points Christie highlighted include, but are certainly not limited to:
- In the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget, $3.27 billion will go to health benefits alone, totaling over 9 percent of the entire state budget;
- The pension payment is $1.3 billion, the biggest payment in state history, and combined, the cost of public employee entitlements next year is 15 percent of the budget;
- These out-of-balance health benefits costs are expected to consume 14 percent of the state budget all on their own in the next 10 years, without reform.