One victory for working man, one lost battle for a presidential hopeful. In 2011 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie negotiated a deal with public workers to insure their retirement accounts were fully funded. It was considered by many to be one of the governor’s crowning achievements proving that he was willing to work across party lines for the betterment of New Jersey’s residents. Last year when it became evident that the state would fall short of balancing its budget, Christie decided to reduce contributions to the retirement fund. Instead of putting the planned 1.7 billion dollars into the fund, only 700 million was applied to public worker’s pension funds. This year the planned figure was 2.25 billion, but was reduced to 681 million. The unions representing state workers sued, and today a decision was made by a superior court judge who ordered the state to add a contribution of 1.57 billion dollars to the fund.
The state’s attorneys were placed in the unusual position of battling a law proposed and signed by the governor himself. Tax revenues declined, and Christie unilaterally decided to cut the funding. The state will appeal the decision.
The Republican governor may find himself losing his bid for the presidency before the primaries begin. The battle between our nation’s people and the right wing oath of fiscal responsibility may become Christie’s most damning issue, and one he cannot afford to lose.
Lawmakers who foresaw the deficit offered an alternative to the governor; they suggested raising taxes on the wealthiest earners in the state to compensate for the shortfall. Christie refused to take action.
This recent defeat simply adds to Christie’s problems for 2016. Once considered one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, he is lacking in support at the present. His poll numbers are low, and he has been unable to accumulate the number of large donors needed to operate a successful campaign. The entrance of Jeb Bush into the mix has been most costly to Christie among all other potential candidates.
Considering the number of probable GOP candidates, and the division of both the Republican Party and its base, the winner will be the man or woman who distances themselves from the pack early in 2016. At one time Christie was viewed as a Republican who separated himself from many of the extremist views in the GOP. Lately he has begun to ‘fall in line’ with the majority.
New Hampshire will be a huge test for Christie. Can he bring a message to the most discerning voters in America? Although he and Bush are considered the only two moderates seeking their party’s nomination, what will he say which helps voters decide he is the better choice?
At present multiple polls in different states do not present a clear-cut picture of the mindset of GOP voters. Overall it appears Jeb Bush is the front runner, but in several individual states he is not in the top three. And there are surprises already. Ted Cruz, the TEA Party favorite and junior Senator from Texas did not fare well recently in his own state; Scott Walker, the Governor of New Hampshire soundly trounced him in a recent poll. In states which are more prone to align themselves with the religious right, Mike Huckabee leads all challengers.
A lost court battle may not be the fatal blow to Chris Christie, but he sorely needs some positive notoriety soon.
By James Turnage