Gov. Christie prepares for pension debt fight, demanding reform in State of the State
TRENTON - Gov. Chris Christie mentioned reforming the state's pension problem in his State of the State speech, and it could be the most controversial fight of 2014.
Christie demanded more changes to the state's retirement system. "The increase in pension and debt service costs could amount, the increase, could amount to as much as $1 billion," Christie says.
"That's nearly $1 billion that we can't spend on education, we can’t invest in infrastructure improvement, that we can't use to put more cops on the street, that we won't have available to us to increase access to health care," he says.
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That number, which could be as high as $5 billion, isn't a new threat.
Ben Dworkin, of the Rebovitch Institute for Politics at Rider University, says if the governor can get Democrats to put more of the burden on those paying into the pension system, as he did in 2010, he wins big politically. "I think the governor raised this issue because some very tough decisions will have to be made," he says.
Dworkin believes even if it doesn't happen, Christie still wins because he can accuse others of not working with him on a compromise.
Along with pension concerns, the governor also proposed extending the school year, and restricting bail for certain suspects in Tuesday night's speech.