In a landmark vote and victory for taxpayers, 14 Democrats joined Republicans Thursday night as the New Jersey State Assembly passed sweeping legislation cutting back on lavish benefits for government employees.
Take a well-earned bow, Governor Christie.
“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.”
Christie and Republicans banded together with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) to advance the bill despite opposition from the majority of Democrats who control the Legislature.
Kudos to Sweeney and Oliver for having the fortitude to stand up to the union bullies who feel they’re entitled to endless benefits and zero sacrifice. New Jersey has been reeling under crushing debt from years of runaway spending and the bill has come due. In just 18 months in office Christie has demonstrated leadership qualities sorely lacking from many in higher office, most notably at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He understood the problems, campaigned on the message he would fix things and has kept his promise.
Supporters of the bill say the state needs to cut costs because the pension and health systems are underfunded by more than $120 billion total. The Christie administration estimated the bill would save $3 billion in health benefits over the next 10 years and $120 billion in pension costs over 30 years. Much of the pension savings are from the controversial elimination of the cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, which unions have threatened to challenge in court.
Meanwhile, other Democrats are left dispirited, crushed by the notion that the days of living large on the backs of taxpayers may be coming to an end.
Most Democrats denounced the bill, and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the Assembly majority leader, called it “one of the most stunned and disheartening times” of his career.
Now he knows how taxpayers feel every time he makes a grab for our wallets. Sweeney, meanwhile, was unapologetic.
“Nobody is talking about how we protected 800,000 people’s pensions,” he said today. “I don’t apologize for that.”