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Inquirer Editorial: Christie leaving budget holes for the next governor to fill

Gov. Christie's budget is so full of holes that the next governor may not have much to govern. It could be like buying a house and falling through the floorboards because it's been overtaken by termites.

Gov. Christie's budget is so full of holes that the next governor may not have much to govern. It could be like buying a house and falling through the floorboards because it's been overtaken by termites.

Citing the pension hole, rating agencies have downgraded the state's credit a record 10 times while Christie has been in office. A rating agency has already hinted at yet another credit downgrade because Trenton hasn't fixed the nation's most troubled pension system.

Christie didn't create the problem, but neither has he solved it in his seven years as governor. Like his predecessors, Christie didn't meet the state's obligation to fund the plan for 800,000 government workers and retirees. Consequently, the deficit grew at an even faster rate.

Christie is making an unprecedented $2.5 billion contribution to the system, but that's only half of what is needed. Reducing the gap is crowding out spending on programs and services.

S&P Global Ratings predicts Christie's budget would create deep financial problems for whoever takes his place in 2018.

By 2019, the new governor will feel the full pain of Christie's free-wheeling tax cuts. In addition to the pension tsunami, more than $1 billion in revenue lost due to cuts in the sales and estate taxes must be replaced.

That typically leads to cutting services, increasing the tax burden on property owners and other taxpayers, or all the above. There will be little money for ambitious ideas or to make up for President Trump's expected cuts of federal support for health care and environmental protection. In danger is Christie's plan to address the opioid epidemic.

Blame it on his poor financial stewardship, which included rosy revenue projections crafted to avoid making unpopular tax and spending decisions. Add to that Christie's failure to negotiate in good faith with unions or persuade employees to pay more for their pensions.

Organized labor and its friends in the Legislature know all too well that the growth of pension fund liabilities will soon cause heartache within the ranks of government employees.

With Christie leaving office next year, they should be making plans to work with the next governor so he or she doesn't have to pull out a hatchet and start chopping up the government.

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