Today we begin a new series where we shine the spotlight on the politicians and ideological activists behind the attacks on public pensions. Our first subject: New Jersey governor and presidential aspirant Chris Christie. Below are five things you need to know about Chris Christie and his record on pensions.
- Christie violated the terms of his own law, skipping payments and making New Jersey the most underfunded pension system in the country. In his much touted 2011 pension law, Chris Christie promised to make payments to shore up New Jersey’s public pension funds. In the years since, Christie has repeatedly broken his promise and cut the state’s contribution to the pension funds by millions of dollars. Rather than live up to his promises, Christie has fought multiple court cases in order to continue breaking his word.
- Workers came to the table, increased their contributions and sacrificed earned benefits; Christie didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. As part of the 2011 pension law, firefighters, teachers, and other public employees in New Jersey agreed to make sacrifices, such as contributing more each month to their pensions and suspending cost of living adjustments. By 2018, New Jersey workers will be contributing 7.5% of their salary to their pension, faithfully making their contribution every paycheck. When times were tough, workers stepped up and made sacrifices. Chris Christie, however, has continued to break his promise and go back on his word. New Jersey’s workers have learned: Chris Christie doesn’t negotiate in good faith.
- Christie handed corporations $2.1 billion in business tax subsidies in his first three years in office. While Chris Christie has repeatedly broken his word to workers, he has gone out of his way to help large corporations and Wall Street financial firms. Under Governor Christie, New Jersey’s pension funds have invested more heavily in high-fee “alternative investments”, which enrich Wall Street financial firms while delivering poor returns for workers whose retirement security depends on these pension funds. In the first three years of his administration, Governor Christie handed out $2.1 billion in business tax subsidies.
- New Jersey’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. While the national unemployment rate has declined significantly since the Great Recession, New Jersey’s unemployment rate has remained largely flat and, in fact, has actually increased in the last year. Governor Christie’s policies have failed workers. New Jersey’s unemployment rate of 6.5% is one of the highest in the nation. Governor Christie’s policies are bad for workers during their working years and in retirement.
- New Jersey’s credit rating has dropped nine times under Governor Christie. Not only does New Jersey have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, but New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded nine times under Governor Christie, as a result of his failed economic policies. These nine downgrades are the most under any New Jersey governor and New Jersey now has the second-lowest credit rating of any state. Rather than responsibly dealing with the economic challenges facing New Jersey, Governor Christie has played politics with workers’ retirement security and cut investments in infrastructure that would promote economic growth.