New Jersey union members packed the front of the Statehouse on Thursday to protest Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to slash pension payments.

CWA Protest 1
Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ

About 500 gathered in protest of the governor's plan to cut pension payments by almost $2.5 billion through the end of the next fiscal year. Union leaders and several lawmakers blasted Christie and called upon him to increase taxes on New Jersey’s wealthiest residents and repeal tax breaks for corporations.

“No responsible leader actually recommends reneging on a debt as if he is stiffing a buddy on a sports bet,” said Hetty Rosenstein, Communications Workers of America New Jersey State Director. “The governor talked a lot about pain in his first few years in office, all the pain for workers and their families. Now we need a little pain for millionaires and profitable corporations.”

The CWA is one of several public worker unions that are suing Christie over his plan to reduce pension payments. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the case June 25.

If the unions prevail, New Jersey will have just five days to find the money to keep this fiscal year’s budget in balance, and produce a signed and balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2015 by midnight June 30.

To keep the current year's budget and next year's spending plan in balance, Christie plans to cut the state's contribution to the public workers' pension system by almost $2.5 billion for the combined fiscal years. For the fiscal year that ends June 30, the state was supposed to contribute $1.6 billion, but Christie now plans to pay in $696 million. Next fiscal year's payment was to be $2.25 billion, but the governor says he'll contribute $681 million.

"As to Fiscal year 14, I am doing it through Executive Order," explained Christie when he made his plans known May 19. "We only have a brief period of time left in the fiscal year so I will be executing an Order. As to Fiscal Year 15 obviously there's a budget that still needs to be passed. This is how I am adjusting."

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