Christie Warns of Crisis — Economic, Not Political

Matt Katz, WNYC | April 23, 2014 | Katz on Christie

“Disaster” looms.

That was the message that Gov. Chris Christie sent to the state’s business leaders, lobbyists and lawmakers who gathered in Washington, DC, Tuesday night for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s 77th annual “Walk to Washington.” 

In a speech that echoed the message he has been sending at town hall meetings, Christie said that to save the state from economic devastation, the Democratic-controlled Legislature needs to do two things.

First, it must renew a cap, passed in his first term, on the amount that arbitrators can award for cops’ and firefighters’ salaries. The Assembly has quibbled with Christie’s version of the bill, and the cap expired on April 1.

Second, despite historic reforms to the pension system in his first term, Christie wants further unspecified cuts. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, has called this plan “dead on arrival.”

But Christie nonetheless made his case, saying that by fiscal year 2016 the state will be paying its pensioners more than its current employees. If changes aren’t made, he promised “broad and massive layoffs and cuts in services in municipalities throughout the state.”

“This is not about me,” he said. “This is about the next [governor], and what we are leaving them to deal with. So this is not going away. And it will impact each and every one of you and your employees.”

But there were few Democrats there to hear his message. Many tables at the Marriott Wardman Hotel sat empty, salads untouched, because lawmakers and lobbyists dine and drink together at private parties elsewhere during this annual night in Washington. 

Christie brought seven of his 10 senior staffers with him for his speech, but they left with him immediately afterward for an expensive meal at an undisclosed restaurant. 

Christie’s team also did not take the chartered Amtrak train down to DC. Conversation on the train was dominated not by the state’s financial crisis, but Christie’s political crisis. Legislative Democrats who control the investigative committee examining Bridgegate announced that four new subpoenas have been issued. They made the announcement just before the train arrived in Washington.