By David Madden
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision to reduce payments into the state’s pension fund to bridge an $800 million immediate revenue shortfall could have serious repercussions far away from Trenton — or even Wall Street.
Christie has long insisted the pension problem needs to be fixed and has made steps toward true pension reform. But last week’s decision is seen by some as a retreat on that effort.
“He has given speech after speech criticizing past governors for failing to take the pension liability seriously,” says Ben Dworkin, a political science professor at Rider University, “and that rhetoric seems a bit hollow right now, or at least the Democrats will charge that, because he’s doing the exact same thing that other governors did.”
Christie says he has no other choice to achieve a balanced budget. He also doubts the move will have a great effect on his potential 2016 Presidential aspirations — and Dworkin agrees to a point.
Early primary voters may not care much, but political opponents will seize on the move to help themselves.
“Christie’s critics…and he’s gonna have competitors for the Presidential nomination,” Dworkin says. “They’re going to be able to turn this issue into a critique of the Christie tenure in New Jersey and they’re gonna say he was a lousy manager who didn’t grow the economy in his own state.”
But that scenario is at least several months off, assuming Christie enters the race, which is by no means certain.