The administration for Republican presidential candidate and Gov. Chris Christie dismissed a union attack Wednesday as just another occurrence of relentless and baseless rhetoric from the labor movement.
The New Jersey AFL-CIO argued Tuesday Christie would make a horrible president because of how he managed the state. The union lists pension reforms, transportation, job growth and education as just a few policy areas it believes the governor has failed on. Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts, however, notes unions have been in a nonstop crusade against the governor since before he took office.
“The public sector unions have been vicious political opponents ever since the governor’s first campaign for office in 2009,” Roberts told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “They had lived a charmed life under Democratic governors for years and years before the governor started speaking hard truths about needing to cut cost.”
Labor unions in the state enjoyed four Democratic administrations before Christie took office in 2010. Roberts notes the union attacks have been essentially a weekly occurrence since. Efforts to rein in the state finances and verbal altercation with the states teachers union angered labor leaders.
Christie himself touched upon the union attacks in a recent speech. He noted unions are most upset about not being able to take whatever they want from state taxpayers. His tax and budget reforms dealt with several key areas public-sector unions.
“[They’ve] opposed the governor and his policies almost reflexively because of his hard stance on reining in out of control taxes to begin with,” Roberts continued. “It was a system that enriches them.”
Christie was even brought to court by state unions for his pension reforms. Unions claimed his 2014 pension cuts were in violation of a contractual agreement the state had to fund retirement. An agreement, the unions note, Christie agreed to himself. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled June 9 the pension cuts were legal and did not violate the previous agreement.
“Their posture on these isn’t so much political as philosophical,” Roberts added. “They want a system where they get much and more, without being asked to pay for it. As such, there are no honest policy disagreements from AFL-CIO, only political attacks.”
Roberts said the reforms simply mean state employees have to help fund their personal retirement plan. New Jersey is among several states being put at risk of massive debt because of pension benefits, according to a 2014 report from the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission.
At the center of the conflict is a 2011 budget provision known as Chapter 78 which legally compelled the state to pay retirement pensions in full. Despite this, in 2014 Christie signed Executive Order 156 which cut pension benefits from the $2.25 billion required to only $681 million.
State unions vowed to continue fighting and appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal was signed by the Communications Workers of America, the New Jersey Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers among others. The Supreme Court does have the ability to accept or reject any case.
The New Jersey AFL-CIO did not respond to a request for comment by TheDCNF.
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