TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey governor Chris Christie has signed into law landmark employee benefits legislation requiring a half-million public workers to pay more for pension and health benefits.

Christie says the move is necessary to shore up the state’s badly underfunded retirement systems. He predicts New Jersey’s fix will be emulated nationally by other states facing similar shortfalls.

The Republican governor said the bill he signed today got through the state legislature because of bipartisan support.  Democrats who lead the legislature supported it (see related story), but most rank-and-file lawmakers sided with public-sector unions in opposing it.

The bill puts benefits for teachers, police, and other public workers more in line with the private sector.

More than 8,000 demonstrated at the capitol last week in the last of three union-sponsored protests.

(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press.  All rights reserved.)

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