|Gov. Chris Christie poses for a photo following a town hall meeting at the American Legion Dupuis Cross Post 15 July 1, 2015 in Ashland, New Hampshire. Christie has made entitlement reform one of the main planks of his 2016 run, and he continues to take a hardline stance on saving New Jersey's pension system. Photo by: Darren McCollester.
NJ.com - MANCHESTER, N.H. - Gov. Chris Christie has a warning for state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who is working on a plan to increase state contributions to New Jersey's public employee pensions: It's not an option without more reforms.
Last week, Prieto (D- Hudson) began meeting with labor leaders about a plan to increase state payments into the badly under-funded pension system.
Under the plan, New Jersey would reportedly get five years to phase in the full contribution suggested by actuaries to keep the state workers' pension plan from going belly up. It would not include a complete redesign of pension and health benefits being pitched by Christie, sources told NJ Advance Media last week.
"If all it does is to stretch out the time requirement to make the same payment for the same bloated system, then it's no solution," Christie told NJ Advance Media while in New Hampshire campaigning for president.
"It's just like extending your mortgage another ten years. What we need to do is to reduce the size of the mortgage and that's the only way we're going to be able to fix the pension problem in the state."
The Prieto plan is currently under review by union leaders to see if it's something they could accept.
However, on Friday, Christie was adamant that stretching out the same payment over time was not an acceptable solution.
"We cannot afford this," he said. "And the fact is that if the unions don't get real about the fact that we can't afford it, it's going to go bankrupt."
Public employee unions had gone to court to compel the governor to make a negotiated $1.57 billion payment into the pension system under a 2011 law that also hiked workers' contributions. In February, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the unions. The New Jersey Education Association teachers union then broke off talks with the Christie administration on further reforms to the system.
"They won a court case, they got beer muscles after the court case," Christie said. "And so they decided to walk away. They haven't wanted to talk since."
However, Christie appealed the Superior Court's decision, and in June, the state Supreme Court sided with him, saying that there was no constitutional mandate for a governor to make the promised pension contributions.
"I know they thought they were going to win a court case," said Christie. "They lost.And so they need now to get serious about reducing it. ... When the pension goes bankrupt — and I've told this to teachers' union members — they'll have only their selfish and greedy leaders to blame for it."
Christie then accused collective bargaining leaders of fearing a backlash from members that would cost them their highly compensated jobs.
"You know why they're not talking about it?" Christie said.
"They're not talking about it because they're afraid they won't get reelected to the head of the teacher's union. And who'd want to give a $250,000 a year gig up in addition to your teaching salary?"
This article appeared on nj.com authored by Claude Brodesser-Akner.