New Jersey Governor Promises To Take ‘Extreme Measures’ To Reduce Public Employee Pensions

LONG HILL, NJ &#8211 The day after his budget address, an upbeat Gov. Chris Christie returned to a message that has worked for him in the past: State finances are in trouble and only he can help.

The Republican governor urged Democrats in the state Legislature to work with him to overhaul the public workers’ retirement fund for a second time, but he offered no specifics.

“I’m ready work with the entire Legislature to come up with ideas to fix this, but if they’re unwilling to that do that, this is a problem we’re going to own,” Christie said during a town hall in Stirling, not far from his home in Mendham. “I’m willing to take more extreme measures.”

On his radio show tonight on NJ 101.5 FM, Christie said he has “significant powers” through “executive action” to make changes to the pension system. He declined to elaborate.

At the town hall, the second of his second term, Christie traded a video that usually introduces him to the crowd for budget charts tacked to the wall of Long Hill Community Center. Just like last week in Port Monmouth, residents in conservative Morris County quizzed Christie on issues of local concern with no mention of the problems that have plagued his administration for months.

In his opening remarks, Christie repeated a line from the budget address that this year’s budget is smaller than the 2008 spending plan without pension, health care and debt service costs. The total spending plan — the largest in state history — is $34.4 billion and includes the full, legally required $2.25 billion pension payment.

“Think about that, nine out of every 10 dollars goes for nothing that is productive for our future as a state,” Christie said. “It merely pays for past mistakes and bad promises.”

The doomsday theme was at the forefront in Tuesday’s speech so much so that Christie said his brother, Todd, texted him: “Lot of sunshine in that thing, thanks for cheering me up.”

Reaching back to the early days of his first term, Christie said it was his job “to be the adult in the room” and not “entertainer in chief.” Warning, that “not even (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg could bail us out of this problem,” Christie invoked Detroit, the largest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy.

“Detroit is giving us a preview of what could happen to us. It’s the trailer of what could happen to us if we don’t get on this even more now,” he said.

Christie, who has seen his early status as frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination erode recently, noted New Jersey’s two-term limit for governors.

“I’m not going to worry about politics anymore everybody,” he said. “This is it. I’m on the back nine. When you’re on the back nine and you don’t have to worry about playing another nine, your only obligation is to tell people the truth.”

On Thursday Christie travels to Boston for a Republican Governors Association fundraiser with Mitt Romney and Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker.

From The Star-Ledger