A New Jersey judge reversed Gov. Chris Christie’s $1.57 billion pension cut from the state’s budget, forcing him to find extra funds elsewhere in a short period of time.
“The court cannot allow the state to simply turn its back on its obligations to New Jersey’s public employees, especially in light of the fact that the state’s failure to make its full payment constitutes a substantial blow to the solvency of the pension funds in violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” said Judge Mary Jacobson, who delivered the decision on Feb. 23.
The decision came down only one day before the Governor was to reveal New Jersey’s budget for 2016. The Republican governor has balanced budgets in the past mainly with cuts in spending and no tax increases in the already highly taxed state.
Last year, Christie approved the cuts to the pension system to balance out the budget due to lower-than-expected tax revenues. But unions throughout the state called the governor out on going against a bipartisan deal made in 2011 where New Jersey’s pension would be funded regardless of any budget shortfall.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak released a statement shortly after the verdict, saying, “Once again liberal judicial activism rears its head with the court trying to replace its own judgment for the judgment of the people who were elected to make these decisions.” The Christie administration is expected to appeal the court’s decision.
It’s an interesting change for the judge, as she previously allowed Christie to cut $900 million of pension funding in June 2014 and blocked requests from state unions to challenge or reverse the ruling. She also rebuked Christie by forcing the state to allow same-sex marriages to take place in her September 2013 ruling.
Recently, the well-known governor has taken some heat in his home state and in the media. In New Jersey, a recent poll stated that only 37 percent of voters approve of the governor’s job and 53 percent viewed his negatively, blaming his views on education, arrogance in talking to voters and reporters, and distancing himself from his home state to possibly make a run for the presidency in 2016.
It has become increasingly difficult for Christie to get a good start on the 2016 presidential campaign. Many rich donors, such as Johnson and Johnson heir and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, have turned their support to other potential candidates, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. This proves especially detrimental to Christie, as political analysts now believe he is losing much of the New York-New Jersey support he needs to win the Republican nomination.