TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey yesterday heralded his state’s bipartisan approach to curbing spending by raising health and pension contributions by public employees.
In interviews with major media outlets and on talk shows, the Republican governor said New Jersey will become a national model “hailed across the country . . . something the president and the Congress can only aspire to.’’
The governor was able to fast-track the employee benefits legislation Thursday after striking a deal with the Democrats who control the Legislature even as unions held rallies to pressure leaders to kill it.
“It’s a monumental accomplishment, it really is. Very few states have done anything this sweeping in one piece of legislation,’’ Christie said, calling underfunded pension and health care obligations “the core problems of government spending in the country.’’
Christie is scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press’’ on Sunday to talk about the deal, which requires 500,000 teachers, police, firefighters and other public workers to pay a larger portion of their health insurance premiums based on income. It also increases their pension contributions.
The state’s retirement funds are underfunded by $110 billion. Christie has estimated that the reform legislation will save the state about $130 billion over the next 30 years.
The legislation, which also restricts collective bargaining for four years, was passed after Christie and the Democratic leaders who control the Legislature reached a deal that Christie called his greatest accomplishment since taking office in 2010.
Christie was careful to credit Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver; they had far more to lose with their Democratic base and traditional union backers. The legislation caused a deep fissure among Democrats who felt betrayed by a law restricted union negotiations.
“When everybody in 2025 is still collecting their pensions, they should be looking for me and Steve and Sheila to say ‘Thank you.’ Because this was not easy,’’ Christie said.