Chris Christie will deliver New Jersey’s “State of the State” address on Tuesday. The question on the minds of lawmakers, labor leaders and public workers is: how much will he reveal about his plans for reforming the state’s pension system?
Christie indicated over the summer that a new round of pension reforms are necessary, and they would likely involve benefit cuts.
But new details have been scarce, and the state’s Pension and Benefit Study Commission hasn’t released its recommendations.
When Gov. Chris Christie delivers his 2015 State of the State address Tuesday, lawmakers and public workers will no doubt be listening for remarks on pension reform.
On the eve of that speech, and months after a commission’s report on recommendations for the ailing pension system was expected to be released, legislators, union leaders and lobbyists say they are expecting to hear from the governor on one of the biggest issues facing Trenton. Christie’s office has not yet provided any details about his annual address to the state Legislature.
The governor made mention of the ailing public employee pension system nine times in his 2014 address, proposing to crack down on pension fraud and engage on pension reform.
“If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension and debt service costs, we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few,” he said at this time last year.
The debate over pensions heated up again last spring when a budget gap suddenly erupted and Christie cut back on payments that were promised in a highly touted pension reform law he signed in his first term.
Since late summer, recommending ideas about overhauling public worker pensions has been the job of a bipartisan commission Christie designated. The commission issued a report in September laying out the severity of the state’s unfunded pension and health benefit liabilities, but has not released a final report with recommendations. The commission’s chairman Thomas J. Healey did not return calls for comment.
The state is shouldering $83 billion in pension liabilities, as measured by new GASB accounting rules.
Photo By Walter Burns [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons