CALDWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was interrupted several times Tuesday, as he defended his veto of a series of tax hikes to fund the state employee pension system.
As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Christie spoke in Caldwell a day after signing his budget for the new fiscal year. He slammed Democratic lawmakers for trying to push through what he described as “crazy things” like temporarily raising taxes on the state’s highest-income earners and businesses to fill an unexpected budget gap.
Instead, Christie used his line-item veto power to eliminate the tax hikes, choosing to delay contributions to the public employees’ pension fund to fill the gap, which his administration estimated at $2.75 billion over the two fiscal years.
“What they hoped was that every time there became a problem, that whoever was in charge at the time would be politically pressured into just raising taxes again, again, and again and again,” Christie said. “I’m not going to do that.”
Christie, who said that he intends to propose a new round of pension and benefits reforms late this summer, told the group gathered in the auditorium of the Caldwell Community Center that health benefit costs for public workers are “completely out of control.” He warned the state “is heading towards catastrophe” if costs aren’t reined in.
Christie’s appearance was interrupted multiple times by groups of students who broke into chants criticizing the governors’ education policies. He shot back with his signature swagger, mocking the protesters for reading off their iPhones as they were escorted out of the room.
“After being governor five years, having them yell and scream at me doesn’t bother me one damn bit,” Christie said. “What else you got to say?”
Christie kicked off his day with an early morning appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” where he said he intends to spend the coming months touring the state and hammering the need for the pension and health care savings, which he has said could come in the form of an end to defined-benefit plans and less generous health care plans.
“What you’re going to see me do all summer is to be out across the state of New Jersey making the argument that we need to fix this system or it will eat us alive,” he said.” “We need to speak in stark, plain, understandable terms to people.”
At the town hall, Christie doubled down on the message, promising any plan he floats will elicit more jeers.
“Whenever it’s released, it will be universally criticized. And the reason it will is because it will inflict pain,” he said, “because there is no other way to fix a severe problem like this but with pain.”
Christie was also confronted at an event in Paterson Tuesday by school employees protesting his public education policy. He was in that city to swear in Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who was elected last month.
Several dozen school district workers protested Christie’s appearance, taking aim at the state’s control of the district and chanting “Christie’s got to go.”
Educators have had a testy relationship with the governor, who cut school funding in his first year in office and pushed for changes to tenure laws.
The Record reported the audience was told Christie would give a speech. But Christie’s office said he was not listed as a speaker.
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