As reported on the website, the New Jersey Politicker, Senator Sweeney recently questioned the labor negotiating tactics of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Sweeney went on the record stating “When you hear [Governor Chris Christie] focusing on pension reforms and benefit costs, it got the attention of a lot of people nationally. But the reality is that the governor is using that as a distraction from what the real problem in the state right now is: the economy” “If we had just grown our economy to the national average, we’d have $3.3 billions dollars more in the state coffers, which means we could be funding pensions and not have the crisis we have right now.”
Sweeney made his remarks after a labor union rally attended by both local and national union leaders in Newark, New Jersey. Labor union concerns have come to the forefront in recent weeks since the governor voiced plans during last month’s budget address to further overhaul the State’s pension and benefit system. Currently the State Public Employee Pension Systems have billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. Using the findings from a commissioned study initiated and staffed by Christie, the Governor has proposed highly controversial solutions for funding the state’s pension obligations. Among the plan’s specifics are to freeze existing pension plans, aligning future public employee retirement benefits with private-sector levels, and transfer the assets, liabilities and risks of the existing pension and new retirement plans to employee entities that wish to assume this obligation.
Sweeney, a union ironworker by trade, sees the governor’s pension and benefits gambit as part of the gamble Christie might make on a presidential bid. “He’s trying to speak to a populist message nationally. In the Republican Party, attacking unions, taking benefits and reducing pay is a populist position for his side of the aisle,” Sweeney said. “We really need to focus on getting the economy going, because there is no excuse for not getting it going.”
As this story continues to unfold we will keep our readers updated. As reported earlier this week there have been a myriad of law suits filed by Public Employee Labor Unions in an effort to force Christie to live up to his obligation of funding the State Pension system.