New Jersey lawmakers tonight voted to enact a sweeping plan to cut public worker benefits after a long day of high-pitched political drama in the streets and behind closed doors.Imagine, a governor keeping the promises he campaigned on.
Union members chanted outside the Statehouse and in the Assembly balcony, and dissident Democrats tried to stall with amendments and technicalities. Although they successfully convinced top lawmakers to remove a controversial provision restricting public workers’ access to out-of-state medical care, they failed to halt a historic defeat for New Jersey’s powerful unions and a political victory for Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Nearly 8500 people gathered in the streets surrounding the Statehouse in Trenton to defend their stance on pension and benefit reform. Collective bargaining was the overall theme, but some delved deeper as to what exactly is important to them and their families as a bill awaits a vote in the state assembly.
"Together, we’re showing New Jersey is serious about providing long-term fiscal stability for our children and grandchildren," Christie said in a statement released after the vote. "We are putting the people first and daring to touch the third rail of politics in order to bring reform to an unsustainable system."
By the way, support was bipartisan. The media should love that, right?
Supporters of the bill — including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) — have said the state needs to cut costs because the pension and health systems are underfunded by more than $120 billion in total.Consider this a win-win for Christie, and a stinging defeat for the unions. Oh well.
Christie, who has staked his reputation on shrinking government costs, has called the bill an example for the rest of the country. New Jersey is one of 23 states that have asked employees to pay more for their pensions since the Wall Street financial crisis battered retirement systems in 2008, according to the Pew Center on the States.
Today’s union protest, like other recent demonstrations, did nothing to stop the bill. But it did highlight the growing fissures in the state Democratic Party, which has struggled to counter Christie.The crybabies at the NY Times call it "deep cuts" and a "broad rollback" of worker rights. Aww.
What we've got here is a governor who's taken an unsustainable debt load and put our state on the path toward fiscal sanity. Contrast him with the current occupant of the White House, who's managed to do the exact opposite.