NJ Democrats rule out pension reform despite $52B debt

Gov. Chris Christie delivers his annual budget address as Senate President Steve Sweeney looks on.

By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog

Despite a $52 billion public pension debt, the Democrat-controlled New Jersey Legislature has ruled out any new reforms to the state retirement system.

“If we stay the course the pension system will be fine,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s annual budget address. “It’s not going to bankrupt us.”

In contrast, Christie stressed the need for action, saying the pension overhauls enacted in 2011 “didn’t go far enough” and “have only bought us time.”

“Without additional reforms, New Jersey taxpayers still owe $52 billion to fully fund the pension system,” the governor said. “With our long-term obligations only set to increase in the coming years, the problem isn’t going to go away by itself.”

Christie noted that 94 percent of all new spending in his proposed $34.4 billion budget would be going to pensions, retiree health benefits and debt service.

But his speech did little to convince Democrats that a new round of pension talks is needed.

“We need to reform our economy, not the pension,” said Sweeney. “The pension is where it needs to be and will retain its health, as long as we stay the course.”

“We must create an attitude of choice,” said Christie in his speech, anticipating the opposition. “Due to these exploded entitlement costs, we are failing our taxpayers when we refuse to honestly address these problems and try to fool them into believing that choices do not have to be made.”

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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