NJ Gov to Force Teacher, Employee Healthcare Cuts
Governor Chris Christie proposes $250M in cuts to state employee healthcare, including teachers, to pay public worker pensions.
NJ ADVANCE MEDIA
By Samantha Marcus
TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Chris Christie's administration is freezing $100 million in aid to the state's depressed cities and social programs favored by Democrats until public employees heed his call to cut $250 million in their health benefits.
Christie issued an executive order late Thursday holding in reserve $54 million in transitional aid to cities and $45 million from social programs he did not veto from his budget. He said the funds will remain frozen until the joint employer-employee benefits committees agree to health care changes saving the state $250 million this fiscal year.
The freeze affects half of the appropriation for transitional aid, which typically goes to such low-income cities as Atlantic City, Camden, Paterson, Asbury Park, Harrison and Trenton.
Christie's executive order also bars spending for such programs as domestic violence prevention, Holocaust survivor assistance and court-appointed special advocates for foster children.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) faulted the administration for passing the buck. The city of Camden received $12 million in special state aid last year.
"You shouldn't be punishing other worthy programs that help stimulate the economy and do very productive things," he said Friday. "Obviously I'm worried about turning back the clock on the success that Camden has had. And I can't imagine that (Christie) would want to do that either."
The governor first issued that challenge to reduce health benefits costs to the plan design committees" for state workers and school workers in his February budget address. His proposed budget for the fiscal year that began Friday assumed they would find those savings but didn't tell them how to go about it.
Labor union members of the committees recoiled, noting the governor has no power to order those cuts.
In May, Christie's treasurer told lawmakers the public employees were unwilling to support "even reasonable changes" to their health care plans.
The administration then asked the Legislature to add language to Christie's proposed budget to guarantee the savings materialized. It gave plan design committees a deadline to approve $250 million in health benefits savings. And if they didn't act, state officials would find those cuts for them.