Will Christie keep his promise to put $1.9 billion into pension fund?
During his budget address on Tuesday Gov. Chris Christie once again blasted the public sector pension and benefit system, calling it bloated and “exorbitant.”
“The problem is a broken system created by unsustainable giveaways, by politicians to special interests,” said Christie.
The governor also strongly criticized the proposed Constitutional amendment that would mandate pension payments, because he said it would place “government workers ahead of every other citizen in the state.”
Hetty Rosenstein, the New Jersey State Director of the Communications Workers of America disagrees with the governor. She said even though Christie announced in his budget address that the state will make a $1.9 billion contribution to the state’s pension funds in fiscal year 2017, no one knows if he’ll really do it.
“We’ve been here with the governor before, and he can say lots of things and then if he changes his mind he just doesn’t do it,” she said.
Rosenstein said the governor, in his speech, claimed the average government worker pays $126,000 for their pension and health benefits, and gets $2.4 million in return – but this is just not true.
“Our members have pensions of $30,000 they would have to live 30 years after retirement to take out $2.1 million,” she said. “I would just question every single word that comes out of the governor’s mouth, I would look at every number and I would check every single word. You need to do that, because it turns out not to be true.”
She accused the governor of periodically, and unpredictably, being in attack mode.
“A few weeks ago he sounded like a rabid animal, this time he was much more quiet about it - everything is for effect, everything is for political consumption,” she said.
Rosenstein insisted as the pension payments go forward, a tax increase shouldn't even be necessary.
“There’s no reason to have any tax increase at all, not one dime," she said. "If there is just modest growth, 3 percent by 2022, there’s no need for any tax increase and there would still be $4 billion left over after you’ve made the final payments,” she said.
She said the bottom line is “healthcare is expensive in this state because healthcare is expensive, not because we have some kind of platinum-plated benefits."
"We have the highest cost hospitalization in the country, it doesn’t have anything to do with what our benefits are, we have very high costs,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein added even in the private sector “pension and health benefits cost money, that is a fact, our pension only costs a lot of money because the state didn’t make the payments, we have very modest pensions.”