Gov. Chris Christie blasted state lawmakers in Trenton for what he said was their attempt to protect public union pensions at the expense of everyone else. “You have begun the pursuit of a constitutional amendment to guarantee pension payments over all other types of state spending,” the governor said Tuesday afternoon during his 2016 State of the State speech.
On Monday, the Legislature gave initial approval to plan that if voters approved would make pension payments for public employees a constitutional mandate.
The Republican governor said if the amendment is approved it would make pension payments a higher priority than funding hospitals or prisons. He accused lawmakers of caving into the demands of the public employee unions. “Public pensioners would be a special class of citizens whose retirement is protected above all other public concerns. Protected from recession. Protected from natural disaster. All of that would be in line behind union negotiated pensions – way behind,” he said. “We must tell New Jersey the truth. This is the road to ruin.”
Gov. Christie also used the speech to highlight New Jersey’s efforts to treat drug addiction. He said with the recent closing of a state prison that space should now be used as a dedicated drug treatment facility for prison inmates.
He also proposed increasing reimbursement and Medicaid rates for mental health and substance abuse services by more than $100 million. Service providers treating the uninsured and poor in the state say they’ve been waiting several years for the increases.
Tuesday’s speech comes as his presidential campaign nears its first real tests in Iowa and New Hampshire. The first two states to hold caucuses or primaries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report