Christie's Pension Problem

Gov. Christie told a largely receptive Democratic crowd in North Jersey this morning that the Democrats in the state legislature were failing to act on the "big things" needed to reform New Jersey - and then he broke some news.

"This morning S&P announced that its going to downgrade New Jersey's credit rating," Christie said.

The reason why the rating agency, Standard & Poor's, was concerned with New Jersey? An underfunded pension fund that the Democrats were refusing to act on, the Republican governor said.

"For five months they ignored me," said Christie, who proposed a four-part pension reform plan in September. "They in the legislature have acted for the special interests, not the public interest."

Christie, at a town hall meeting of more than 500 people in Union City, made fun of Democrats for working on bills dealing with issues like the disposal of second-hand mattresses and the creation of a venison donation program.

"The legislature hasn't acted because it's too hard, because people are going to be angry with you," he said. "You didn't hire me to be a talk show host, you hired me to get this place back in order."

Shortly after Christie's announcement, Standard & Poor's issued a press release saying it had lowered the state's general obligation rate because of "our concern regarding the stresses from the state's poorly funded pension system, substantial post-employment benefit obligations, and above-average debt levels."

The state's seven pension funds - covering 720,000 current and retired teachers, police officers, firefighters, judges, and other government workers - are underfunded by about $54 billion. Several governors - including Christie - have failed to make annual contributions to the plan, which is a key reason for the shortage.

The Democrats do have a plan to fix the problem, but Christie says it's insufficient.