Every once in a while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) does or says something that gives me great respect for him. This time around it happened during a town hall meeting in Hanover, New Jersey. During the town hall meeting a local shop steward rose to ask Governor Christie about what would be happening with the public workers pensions going forward to which Gov. Christie responded as honestly as he could. Sadly, there was no money for them…
Question: Hi Governor, my name is Brian McClain. I’m the local shop steward here in Hanover Township so I feel as though that’s a fair way to start and let you know where we’re coming from. So we feel bad for you, initially, because of your analogy. You did get left with the check. And if you talk to some of my colleagues. The five predecessors belong in jail because they never kept the promise, ok? When the majority of my guys took these jobs they said, the old saying was you’re never going to get rich working for the public, ok, but you’ll always have your benefits to be able to take care of your family when you retire. We acknowledge you’re getting killed because of Sandy. A lot of different outside things have beaten you up, but my guys asked me to ask you today so I hear it right from you so I can go back and answer the question to them, if your team put in place this plan to get us out of this, they want you to make the payment, so they want to know why from your perspective and out of your mouth—you know, we understand there’s outside things coming at you in a lot of different ways but I want to be able to hear it from you, you know, as to securing my guys going forward.
Governor Christie: Sure, yeah. We don’t have the money.
… Like listen, we simply don’t have the money, and I’ve told you what we need to get the money, so if folks want me to raise the sales tax to 10% or want me to raise the income tax on every working New Jerseyan by another 29% and if you think that what ultimately will happen will be that people won’t evacuate this state like their clothes are on fire, which will create an even bigger problem for us, that’s the only way you do it that way. The only other way to do it is say listen, those promises that were made, and by the way were also demanded by the union leaders.
Question: Well we felt we won it with collective bargaining.
Governor Christie: Of course, yeah, right, with political muscle behind it. I mean let’s be honest, OK?
… Listen, I understand, but all you and I have done over the course of the last couple minutes, me well before you, was to blame my predecessors, and they deserve blame, but let me tell you something else: your union leaders too knew that it wasn’t getting paid for. It wasn’t like they thought, oh well, there must be some secret stash of money somewhere where they’re going to pay for this stuff, but they wanted to take the political victory lap. There’s politics on both sides. They wanted to come to you and say guess what? We just got you n/55 on your pension. How about that? Aren’t we the best? Guess what? We just got your health benefits increased. You get even better benefits now and you don’t have to pay any more. Remember, when I became Governor, most public workers, not all but most, paid nothing for their health insurance, nothing.
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