Gov. Chris Christie‘s proposed changes to public employee pensions and health benefits, including public school teachers have drawn the ire of the president of the New Jersey Education Association.
Barbara Keshishian charged that Christie is attacking middle class workers and that his proposals for cuts in pensions and health benefits, combined with what she described as much higher costs taken out of the pockets of public employees, will hurt thousands of working families.
"And, in typical fashion, he is pointing fingers at everyone else, while refusing to step up and fulfill even his own most basic obligations,'' Keshishian said. "For much of the last decade and a half, the state of New Jersey has failed to make any contributions to the pension funds, allowing a large deficit to grow. Over that same period, teachers and other school employees contributed billions of their own money into the funds, and even increased their contributions in a good faith effort to stabilize the pension funds.
"Now, Governor Christie is making a bad situation worse,'' the teachers‘ union head said. "In February, he removed the pension contribution from Governor Corzine's final budget, returning New Jersey to the days of not funding pensions at all. His current budget contains no pension contribution for the current year.
"Then, in March, he signed pension reform legislation that reduces benefits while requiring the state to slowly begin meeting its obligation, beginning with a minimal payment in 2011,'' Keshishian said. "But Governor Christie has already said he may break his own law by not making any pension contribution next year, either.
"It's impossible to take seriously the governor's claims that he is trying to reform pensions while perpetuating the greatest abuse of all — the absolute failure of the state to do its part, even as public employees have paid their share of pension costs out of every paycheck,'' Keshishian added. "Enough is enough. Governor Christie needs to stop pointing fingers and start funding the pension systems. No other so-called reforms can dig the state out of the hole that he and many of his predecessors have dug."
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM