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Thumbs Down From Unions on Pension Adjustments [AUDIO]

He didn’t make any specific suggestions, but during his budget address Gov. Chris Christie did seem to suggest that additional accommodations will have to be made by public sector workers when it comes to their pensions and benefits, because the state simply will not be able to afford to pay out those costs in the future.

Gov. Chris Christie
Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

Union leaders were not happy to hear what the governor had to say.

[TONIGHT: ASK THE GOVERNOR]

“The fact of the matter is, he’s been to this well many times, but workers are entitled to these pensions,” said Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey director of the Communications Workers of America. “They pay most of the cost of those pensions; the people who didn’t pay the costs were the state and the local governments. We’re not revisiting the pension plan.”

Rosenstein said the governor did not present any new information about the cost of the state pension plan, though he knew what it was in 2009 when he sent out a letter saying he would never touch the pension. But suddenly in the speech, according to Rosenstein, things changed.

“The members in the pension plan pay an enormous amount for it,” Rosenstein said. “They’ve increased their contributions by 30 percent. The pension itself has been reduced in value by 30 to 40 percent.”

She said a new deal will not be considered.

The governor is going to have to figure this out. He should worry less about protecting millionaires and the kind of things this governor has been engaged in. He has to meet his promise to pensioners. Our workers cannot afford to contribute more. They are contributing a significant amount towards health care, and I gotta tell you, if he asks us and he thinks we’re gonna do it, I got a bridge to sell him.”

New Jersey AFL-CIO president Charlie Wowkanech had a spokesman release a statement after the governor’s speech:

Public employees, unlike the state, have never skipped a payment into the pension system. And, over the past three years, they’ve paid even more to try to bring the funds back to health. At the least, they deserve a state finally willing to shoulder its share of the responsibility so we can climb out of this hole together.

“New Jersey’s middle-class, working families want to know when their property taxes are going to go down and how we’re going to create jobs,” Wowkanech said. “They want to know how we’re going to repair the roads they drive, and the crumbling infrastructure underneath them. They want to know how we’re going to protect our schools and lower their kids’ college tuition bills. They want to know what we’re doing to make sure their power stays on after the next big storm. After today’s speech, it’s apparent that they’ll have to wait another day to get those answers.”

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