Christie blasts Sweeney over pension proposal
On the presidential campaign trail, Gov. Christie touts his relationship with Senate President Stephen Sweeney as proof of how he’d bridge the partisan divide in Washington. “Steve is my friend,” Christie told voters in Iowa last weekend – though, he added, they fight.
On the presidential campaign trail, Gov. Christie touts his relationship with Senate President Stephen Sweeney as proof of how he'd bridge the partisan divide in Washington. "Steve is my friend," Christie told voters in Iowa last weekend – though, he added, they fight.
On Christie's NJ 101.5 radio show Tuesday night, there was no goodwill on display toward Sweeney. Instead, the governor unloaded over a proposal the Gloucester County Democrat announced Monday that would amend the New Jersey constitution to force the state to make quarterly payments into its chronically underfunded public worker pension system.
"Where are you getting the $3 billion dollars? Where are you getting it?" Christie said on the Ask the Governor show. Christie has vetoed money for the pension system, despite signing a law that required the state to increase its contributions; he has objected to Democrats funding the payments through tax increases on income over $1 million and corporations.
"Steve, how much money have you accepted from the public sector unions?" Christie continued. "Why don't you put out a press release on that?" He drew a parallel to Sweeney's favorite NFL team, the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers: "How much does a share in a Democratic state senator cost?"
When Christie demanded that Sweeney call in – pledging to "stay on the after-show" – host Eric Scott noted that Sweeney had Christie's cell phone number. "I want him on the air," Christie said.
Accusing Sweeney of having changed, Christie said, "What happened to the guy who was for a 2 percent interest arbitration cap? What happened to the guy who helped me implement a 2 percent property tax cap?"
Sweeney worked with Christie to overhaul the pension system during the governor's first term. But he hasn't cooperated with Christie's call for further curbing pension costs – citing Christie's backtrack on making the promised payments.
In a statement Tuesday night – emailed before Christie's radio rant – Sweeney noted he had proposed a constitutional amendment to require annual pension payments in 2010.
"The suggestion this is a knee jerk reaction, to pander to any special interest, couldn't be further from reality," Sweeney said. He said his plan would save billions in taxpayer money and cut the pension system's unfunded liability.