February 19, 2016
By Charles Wowkanech, President, New Jersey AFL-CIO
New York, NY – The governor is out of touch with the realities facing New Jersey’s working families, who are worse off today than they were when he took office in 2010. Though his administration has given out billions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations to create and sustain private-sector jobs, New Jersey has not recovered all the jobs lost in the 2008 Great Recession, unlike neighboring states.
Eight thousand Atlantic City casino-industry workers have been laid off, with no solid plan to help them back to their feet. Property taxes are still higher than any state in the country, topping $8,100 on average. The governor continues to fight every effort to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, even with 2.8 million residents living in poverty, a 50-year high, according to a 2014 study commissioned by Legal Services of New Jersey. The middle-class continues to shrink under Christie, with the richest 20% controlling half the income.
The governor has failed to deliver a sustainable plan to fund the state’s transportation needs. State debt is higher than ever. The fact that he reneged on his own landmark pension reform law resulted in nine credit downgrades, making it more expensive to borrow money. His stock reply is to demand more from public-sector workers, who, unlike Christie, have honored their commitment to the pension system 100%. He claims benefits are too rich, but doesn’t acknowledge that state pension system pays out an average benefit of $26,000 per year, ranking it 95th in generosity out of the 100 largest systems.
Christie could choose to institute common-sense tax reforms like combined reporting, which stops corporations from shifting income to avoid state taxes. But during his six years in office, the governor only has been motivated to broker solutions that advance his own political agenda.
The idea that draconian tax increases and service cuts would result if he were required to fully fund pensions is simply not true. The state could significantly improve the health of the pension system by ending the $700 million in fees and bonuses it pays to Wall Street pension fund managers, making the required contribution in quarterly installments, and requiring a bigger sacrifice by those who control the most wealth.