Christie Turns To Old Foes — The Teachers Unions — For Help With Budget

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Chris Christie got famous in America in 2010 after a series of viral confrontations with the teachers unions in his state. The battles helped turn the New Jersey governor into a conservative star, prompting chatter about a possible Republican campaign for president down the road.

Five years later, though, Christie is turning to his longtime political adversaries for help in addressing New Jersey’s budget woes, as the Republican seeks to fix budget problems at home as he gears up for a 2016 campaign across the country.

Christie plans to discuss the state’s cash-strapped budget in a Tuesday speech to the legislature. Ahead of his speech, aides say the governor has reached out to the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, for help.

Christie has offered the NJEA “partnership” in working toward a solution to the state’s monetary problems, his office said ahead of the speech, and the teachers union has accepted his offer to work together.

Christie, in his speech at the state House assembly chambers, will lay out a roadmap for budget reform that the NJEA is willing to work with him on, according to aides.

“I know we can get this done,” Christie will say in his speech, according to excerpts. “We have proven time and again that even when we look like we’re not going to make it work and that politics and partisan interests have won, we flip the script. We do it differently. We get it done.”

In his speech, Christie is expected to outline the scope of the state’s budget problems. He will also discuss plans to pay $1.3 billion into the state’s public sector pension. (Things could be further complicated, though, by the fact that a state judge knocked down Christie’s cuts this year to the system on Monday afternoon).

Christie will argue Tuesday that the pension and health benefits systems are too costly for taxpayers, and will lay out specific ideas for reform, according to aides.

“I did not come here just to identify the problem, shrug my shoulders and return to business as usual,” Christie is expected to say. “There are solutions and my work in this regard began months ago.”

Christie, who is preparing for a possible Republican presidential campaign in 2016, will argue against raising taxes as a solution.

“We cannot tax our way out of this problem,” Christie will say.

Though Christie’s mind may be on a future national campaign, starting Wednesday, the governor plans to participate in a series of town hall meetings across New Jersey on the budget.

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