New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had enough problems at home the third full week of April to make one think he might want to reconsider running for the White House. Or perhaps it was just that he had a very bad week. And it was only Wednesday morning of that week as this article was written.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has decided to pull out of negotiations with the Christie administration over coming up with a plan to fix the state’s underfunded public employees pension fund.
Christie said the two sides had reached an “unprecedented accord” in their negotiations. But the president of the teachers union said nothing could be further from the truth.
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer released a long statement explaining why the union negotiators were closing their laptops and leaving the discussions. He said the agreement to which Christie referred was largely a figment of the governor’s imagination.
“Ultimately, there was no consensus reached on any of the broad concepts we discussed with the (New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study) Commission, and there are serious concerns about some of those concepts,” Steinhauer said.
“Some positive things did result from our conversations with the Commission. Its work, and the research that drove it, have sensitized the entire state to the seriousness of the pension crisis in New Jersey,” he added.
Except for bringing the underfunded pension to the public’s attention, Steinhauer implied the negotiations had been a waste of time.
“Finally, if we had it to do over again, we would never have signed the memo describing concepts we discussed with the Commission,” Steinhauer said. “It was misrepresented by the governor, and that distracted everyone from the real priority: requiring the state to fund the pensions for which our members have paid their share, on each and every payday throughout their careers.”
That bad news came April 21, a day after the top Democrats in New Jersey’s legislature announced they would file a legal brief supporting the public workers unions that are suing Christie for not pumping enough money into the pension system to keep it properly funded.
“We want to make it clear to the court that the administration’s refusal to make the legally required pension payments violates the law and disregards legislative intent,” New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) said in a statement released to NJ Advance Media.
”The pension reform bill approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor is a law he can’t choose to ignore,” Sweeney and Prieto added.
April 20 was a very bad day for Christie. On top of the news that Democrats would be backing the public workers unions in a lawsuit, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Gov. Christie’s support in New Jersey was at historically low levels.
The Quinnipiac poll showed New Jersey voters disapprove 56-38 percent of the job Christie is doing as governor, his lowest approval rating ever and the lowest approval rating for any governor this year in the nine states surveyed by Quinnipiac University.
However, if there was the slimmest of silver linings in this dark cloud, it was that the survey showed most voters, by a 53-38 percent margin, believe Christie was aware of Bridgegate, the George Washington Bridge traffic jam. But voters say 57-32 percent that the governor did not personally order the traffic jam.
One more thread of a silver lining: New Jersey voters say 63-33 percent that Gov. Christie is a strong leader. But here comes that dark cloud again. He gets negative ratings on other character issues and on handling important issues:
- 41-52 percent that he is honest and trustworthy;
- 41-56 percent that he cares about their needs and problems;
- 34-57 percent approval for his handling of the economy and jobs;
- 34-56 percent for handling education;
- 32-59 percent for handling the state budget.
As if all of the above was not enough to ruin Gov. Christie’s week, there was one more problem that developed the week of April 20. This was not on the home front. Rather, it involved Christie’s plans to possibly run for the White House.
Various national news media reported April 21 that New Jersey Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R), who was thought to be solidly in the Christie camp, had made a $10,000 donation to Jeb Bush’s political action committee.
Speaking of the Christie bid for the White House, that Quinnipiac survey of New Jersey voters showed most of his neighbors think it would be a good idea if he just stayed home.
“The governor’s job approval hits a new low and voters think his presidential ambitions are distracting him from his day job,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll. “Besides, they don’t think he’d be a good president.”