Politics, huge issues likely to collide in NJ in 2015
In New Jersey there are huge issues that need to be addressed in 2015, but one veteran pundit said the aspirations of the state's top two politicians will likely dictate what is accomplished and how it is accomplished.
Gov. Chris Christie has said on many occasions that he is mulling a presidential run in 2016 and it is widely believed that State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) is planning to run for governor in 2017.
"In New Jersey, I think (2015) will be remembered for a lot of patchwork solutions to big issues," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "There's the (public employee) pension system and the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). These are things that really need to be tackled, but the political will may not be there on either the governor's side or the democrats' side to do the long-term solutions that are necessary because that will involve raising taxes and all sorts of other things that may not be palatable for a either a governor who wants to run for president or a senate president who wants to run for governor."
The TTF is on pace to run out of money soon. If a funding source isn't identified by the end of this fiscal year the TTF will only have the revenue to pay down its debt. There will not be enough money to pay for capital projects like road and bridge repairs.
In 2011, Christie and the legislature passed reforms that included having public employees pay more for their pensions and health care. A bill was also signed into law requiring Christie to make specific payments into the pension fund. He did not make that full contribution in this fiscal year. The governor is calling for further reforms, but that is a non-starter for Sweeney, who said Christie must make the full contribution.
Another major issue is whether or not Christie will make a run for the White House and when will he make that announcement.
"There's no question that we're looking at this decision and when that decision is going to be coming. I think it'll be a shock to anybody if the decision is not to get into the race," Murray predicted.