Pensions top Gov. Christie's Cedar Grove town hall
Fresh off a national appearance on the "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Gov. Chris Christie again tackled the topic of pensions at a decidedly less jovial town hall meeting in Cedar Grove Thursday.
The Republican governor said the current pension system is overstretched and underfunded, and that the state will be driven to financial ruin, especially without major concessions from union leaders.
"Where's the money, where's the money?" Christie asked the crowd. "You want to make the payment? OK. I want to make the payment too, but where's the money? They need to come up with nearly $3.3 billion, and I think all of you should be asking them where's the money."
The $3.3 billion Christie mentioned is in reference to pension payments for this fiscal year and next fiscal year. If the state is required to come up with that amount, Christie has mentioned the possibility of massive spending cuts or massive tax increases.
Ideas that some people have mentioned include raising the income tax an additional 29 percent, but many insiders say that would be politically impossible for Christie.
Christie has accused Democratic lawmakers of "essentially suing themselves" by getting involved in a lawsuit over pension payments. He blasted the Democrat-controlled Legislature on Thursday over its decision to file a brief asking the Supreme Court to side with the public-sector unions that are suing the Christie administration over its decision to scale back promised payments to the state workers' pension system.
The unions and Democratic lawmakers want the governor to pay the full amount agreed to in a 2011 deal that became law, but Christie says lawmakers have since passed a budget that included reduced payments.
The Legislature initially passed a budget in June 2014 with the full payment included, but Christie vetoed that amount to around $600 million.
If the court requires the Christie administration to make additional payments for the fiscal year, the state would have to do so by June 30. The state constitution requires that New Jersey's budget be balanced by the end of the fiscal year.
Christie hasn't officially said whether he will run for president, but the outcome of the pension fight could affect how Americans see him.
The Cedar Grove meeting at the Essex County College Public Safety Academy was Christie's 136th town hall.