Fiscal Prudence in New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month [Feb. 2015]. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit Jim Young/Reuters)

As New Jersey reels from yet another legal scandal reaching the office of Gov. Chris Christie (R), it really is hard to know where to begin. Naturally, it is tempting to start “at the beginning”, but sometimes that is a difficult proposition, since nothing ever begins. So let us start, then, with Katie Zernike of the New York Times:

In a major blow to Gov. Chris Christie, a New Jersey judge ruled on Monday that he violated state law when he declined to make the full payment into the state’s pension system for public employees last year and ordered him to find a way to fund it now.

Earlier this month we learned that the governor, who once promised “a new era of accountability and transparency” was “waging 23 battles to keep state documents secret” amid a flurry of ethics investigations that have challenged his political ambitions. Zernike notes:

The decision further complicates Mr. Christie’s hopes of reviving his presidential ambitions, which have suffered in recent weeks as his approval ratings in New Jersey have sunk to the lowest point of his tenure, and Republican donors have moved to other contenders for the party’s nomination.

Mr. Christie will now be scrambling also to find the $1.57 billion the judge ordered him to pay.

And while it is easy enough to start, and even finish, with a roll of the eyes because Chris Christie has once again managed to do whatever it is he thinks he is doing, we ought not gloss over the other powerful irony, here. After all, what did Christie accomplish by skipping out on the pension system?

Well, he actually managed to convince Fitch Ratings to downgrade New Jersey debt. And he only had to break the law to do so. At some point, nobody can rightly claim to be surprised.

____________________

Image note: Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit: Jim Young/Reuters)

Zernike, Kate. “Christie Broke Law With Pension Move, New Jersey Judge Says”. The New York Times. 23 February 2015.

Redden, Molly. “Chris Christie Is Now Waging 23 Court Battles to Keep State Documents Secret”. Mother Jones. 4 February 2015.

Rizzo, Salvador. “Fitch downgrades N.J. debt, saying Christie is repudiating his pension reform”. The Star-Ledger. 5 September 2014.

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