Interesting profile of New Jersey governor Chris Christie in a recent New York Times magazine cover story by their excellent political reporter Matt Bai. New Jersey's unfunded liability "has now passed the $100 billion mark."

Governor Christie, with the support of the Democratic-controlled legislature, last July passed their version of Proposition 2 1/2, though theirs is actually lower than ours at a mere 2%. The governor has also proposed 33 other measures including allowing localities to opt out of the civil-service system altogether, giving them more control over hiring and firing local officials; limiting cash payouts that retiring workers can take for their unused sick days, and changes to pensions including higher contributions, raising the age, and lowering benefits.

Bai writes, "The crux of Christie’s argument is that public-sector contracts have to reflect what has happened in the private sector, where guaranteed pensions and free health care are becoming relics. It’s not surprising that this stand has ingratiated Christie to conservatives in Washington; advocacy groups and activists on the right have carried out a long campaign to discredit the ever-shrinking labor movement in the private sector, and what Christie has done, essentially, is to blast his way into the final frontier, taking on the public-sector unions that have come to wield enormous political power. More surprising is how the governor’s proposals are finding sympathy from less-partisan budget experts, if only because they don’t see obvious alternatives. “I’ve tried to look at this objectively, and I just don’t know of any other option,” says Richard Keevey, who served as budget director for a Democratic governor, Jim Florio, and a Republican governor, Tom Kean. “You couldn’t tax your way out of this.”


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