Analysts: Budget Cuts Were ‘Predictable’ [AUDIO]
With New Jersey facing a budget deficit of almost $3 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year and FY 2015, Gov. Chris Christie has announced a plan to slash the public worker pension fund contribution by $2.75 billion. Political observers say with Christie possibly considering a 2016 presidential run, the move was completely predictable.
"The governor doesn't want to slash funding for education, hospitals or the elderly, because that might cause protests out in the streets, so the easiest thing to do is cut the promised pension payment," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "Most people won't pay attention to that, and (he'll) try to do that again for next year in order to avoid tax hikes."
Murray said the governor's motives have more to do with the possibility of Christie running for president than in changing the state's pension issues.
"This is all about running for president in 2016, this is not about fixing the long-term pension problem here in New Jersey," Murray said. "This is, 'What move can I make that will have the least political consequences as I look forward to trying to court those Republican primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire?'"
Murray said while Gov. Christie did inherit a terrible fiscal mess from his gubernatorial predecessors, his decision to decrease this year's pension payment comes down to "don't cut any services that are going to get people out on the streets, like schools and Medicare."
We've seen governors in New Jersey get away with that for the past 15 years and while Gov. Christie has called them out, it seems like he's pulled a page from their own playbook," Murray said.
Murray added New Jersey doesn't have a lot of discretionary spending available, but the governor has ruled out any kind of tax increase.
"At the end of the day, you look for the lowest-hanging fruit, and those are the things you can defer to another governor's administration," Murray said.