NJ teachers union ends talks with Christie on pension system changes

 Wendell Steinhaure, president of the New Jersey Education Association, says teachers have ended talks with  the Christie administration about changes to the state's pension system. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Wendell Steinhaure, president of the New Jersey Education Association, says teachers have ended talks with the Christie administration about changes to the state's pension system. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey’s largest teachers union is ending its discussions of pension system overhauls with the Christie administration.

In his February budget address, Gov. Chris Christie touted what he called an unprecedented accord with the New Jersey Education Association to solve long-term problems with the public employee pension and health benefit systems.

But NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer said Tuesday it hasn’t worked out.

“The costs of some of the things that they wanted to do are very close to the costs of just actually funding the pension system,” he said. “So why reinvent the wheel? You got a wheel, just start putting a little more tread on it.”

Steinhauer also said the changes contemplated by the commission Christie appointed to study the pension system involved more health-benefit sacrifices from the unions.

“They were looking at further things to capture money on that they didn’t get in that first round. It’s just not going to work,” he said. “The key to solving a pension problem: You’ve got to put money into the pension system and that’s what they need to start doing.”

While the NJEA’s decision to end talks is unfortunate, state officials will continue to work on updating the system, a Christie spokesman said.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments next month on a lawsuit by public unions that are trying to force the state to make full payments into the pension system that are required by a 2011 law.

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