If Christie backs out of pension payment, Sweeney vows to shut down N.J. government

As Gov. Chris Christie prepares a budget proposal for New Jersey’s next fiscal year, a top state lawmaker says government could grind to a halt if the plan doesn’t include a promised contribution to the pension system.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says he’s willing to let New Jersey government shut down if the Christie administration does not follow through on pension reforms that require the state contribution, state Senate President Steve Sweeney said he is willing to let the New Jersey government shut down.

“If they don’t make that payment and make a very public commitment to make that payment, then we just won’t pass the budget,” said Sweeney Tuesday. “We’ll have to wait until the commitment is restored, and if that means the government is shut down, then it means government is shut down.”

In his State of the State address, Christie called for more efforts to control property taxes, regional police forces to get more cops on the streets, and education reforms including an extended school day.

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The funding for those plans, he said, will hinge on changes to the state pension system.

“If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension costs and debt-service costs, we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few,” Christie said.

He anticipated that the costs could rise by nearly $1 billion in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

While a shutdown is the last thing he wants, Sweeney said a promise that he and the governor made three years ago when they overhauled the pension system to increase contributions over a seven-year period must be kept.

“We made a promise and this promise has to be kept. We spread the payments out over seven years,” he said. “There’s no pension holidays now. We have to go forward and ensure the payment.”

Christie is expected to unveil his budget plan in the next few weeks.

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