Union Attacks Christie On Pensions

By John Celock

With public employee pension issues set to dominate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) budget address Tuesday afternoon, a state union is already attacking him.

The New Jersey chapter of Communication Workers of America released a video Tuesday morning featuring state employees attacking Christie over not funding the pension system. The video and budget address come a day after a state judge ordered Christie to come up with $1.57 billion to fund last year’s payment to the pension system. Christie is set to call on public employees to make more pension related concessions in his address.

“Governor Christie made a lot of promises about the pension system and he hasn’t kept them,” retired state employee Grace Bethea said in the video.

The video focuses on recent reports of Christie’s foreign travel, including a $33,000 weekend trip to the Middle East. The employees in the CWA video compare the cost of the trip with their annual pensions.

“The pension is deferred compensation,” retired employee Dennis Siegel said in the video. “It is part of my overall salary.”

Christie was set to dedicate Tuesday’s budget address to pension issues, with Monday’s court ruling creating another pension related fiscal crisis for the state. Christie has vowed to appeal the ruling. Christie is set to announce that the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, is set to have discussions with him over pension issues.

New Jersey’s pension system has seen underfunding issues since 1998 under former Gov. Christie Whitman (R). Cuts to annual state payments to the pension system have occurred under both Democratic and Republican governors. Christie signed legislation approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that increased employee contributions to the pension system and would have the state mandated to contribute to the system. Christie vetoed parts of the state budget last year involving pension system payments.

“It is not something that is an entitlement, I earned it,” retired state employee John Stacken said in the video.