While New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continues to campaign around the country, trying to set the stage for a 2016 run for the White House by promoting himself as the Republican who can work with Democrats to make the hard budget choices, the state’s two largest public employee unions went to court to stop him from violating the very law Christie holds up as proof to Republicans he is the man to get the job done.
The New Jersey Education Association and the Communication Workers of America each filed suit yesterday to prevent the unilateral pension grab Christie made last month in order to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. Other unions, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME Council 1 and those representing police, firefighters and engineers, signed on to the lawsuits, representing hundreds of thousands of employees.
As Christie Watch has reported, in May the New Jersey governor unilaterally cut the state’s contribution to its pension plan by $2.4 billion this year and next, in violation of the 2011 pension deal he rammed through the legislature with the support of a few key Democratic party bosses. That pension reform law, Chapter 78—which exacted huge benefit and COLA cuts from employees and retirees, raised the retirement age and increased employee contributions—also required the state to significantly increase its contributions to the pension fund to make up for its having shortchanged the fund for years.
The law specifically gave employees a contractual right to these state contributions and the ability to go to court if they are not made. Now the unions have sued. A Superior Court judge has agreed to expedite action on the lawsuits and there will be a hearing June 25.
In announcing his union’s lawsuit, NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer declared:
Everyone in New Jersey is subject to the laws of New Jersey, including Gov. Christie. Our lawsuit seeks to hold him accountable to follow the law that he signed in 2011.
Governor Chris Christie already broke New Jersey’s economy. Now, he’s not only broken his word by failing to make promised pension payment…he’s breaking the law in the process.
Just how bad Christie’s stewardship of the state economy has been was underscored by David J. Rosen, the legislative budget and finance officer. In April, Rosen told the state Senate Budget committee: