Christie's pension payment cuts spur little public interest, poll says

Gov. Christie is facing heat from public-sector unions for slashing payments into New Jersey's pension system to balance the state budget, but the battle hasn’t drawn much interest from the public, according to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released today.

The poll also found that the Republican governor’s approval rating – 50 percent among New Jersey residents, and 49 percent among the state's registered voters – was nearly unchanged since April and February, after tumbling in the wake of January’s Bridgegate revelations.

In a more recent controversy confronting Christie, 49 percent of those polled had no opinion on his plan to reduce scheduled payments into the pension system, while 57 percent had no opinion on whether the governor had other options for making the payments, the poll found.

Christie announced in May that he planned to cut payments into the pension system in the current fiscal year – which ends today – and the next to fill a $2.7 billion revenue shortfall projected over two years, backtracking on the terms of a pension reform deal reached during his first term.

A state judge ruled that he had the authority to make the cut in the current year, but left open the door for further legal challenge by unions.

While most poll respondents had no opinion on whether Christie could have taken another approach to making pension payments, they also mostly favored one option put forward by Democrats: raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million.

A millionaire’s tax won the support of 66 percent of respondents. In contrast, 40 percent of respondents supported a corporate business tax increase to make the payments – another Democrat-backed plan in the budget passed by the Legislature last week.  

Both taxes were vetoed this evening by Christie.

Christie’s approval rating has stabilized since the George Washington Bridge controversy made national headlines, and no evidence has emerged directly implicating the governor in the lane closure scandal.

Still, more poll respondents than not said Christie was personally involved in the decision to close lanes at the bridge – 46 percent to 42 percent, similar to previous poll results. At the same time, most respondents – 58 percent – said the legislative committee probing the lane closures was more interested in attacking Christie than learning the facts of the case.

The poll of 800 adults was conducted between June 25 and June 29, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.