We may never know how he did it. It could have involved some sort of broad scale mind control experiment. Perhaps he brought in somebody from over the border in Delaware to cast a spell on the state legislature. But in New Jersey – a state generally defined by partisan warfare between liberal Democrats and really liberal Democrats – Governor Chris Christie has met the public workers unions on the field of battle and sent them running like pigs from the gun.
New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday approved a broad rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees, the deepest cut in state and local costs in memory, in a major victory for Gov. Chris Christie and a once-unthinkable setback for the state’s powerful public employee unions.
The Assembly passed the bill 46 to 32, as Republicans and a few Democrats defied raucous protests by thousands of people whose chants, vowing electoral revenge, shook the State House. Leaders in the State Senate said their chamber, which had already passed a slightly different version of the bill, would approve the Assembly version on Monday. Mr. Christie, a Republican, was expected to sign the measure into law quickly.
In a statement released after the vote, Mr. Christie said, “We are putting the people first and daring to touch the third rail of politics in order to bring reform to an unsustainable system.”
What were the horrible, unreasonable, punishing changes the governor demanded in this reform effort? Public union workers will need to kick in a bit more for their benefits, on par with private sector employees. The retirement age will need to go up slightly. There will be a temporary suspension of cost of living increases for current retirees. Oh, and the collective bargaining rights of the unions over benefits packages will be curbed. (Any of this sounding familiar?)
The response was predictable if you paid attention to recent events in Wisconsin. Here’s a photo of the reasoned debate being proffered by the other side after the news broke.
The usual suspects in the unions are vowing revenge at the polls in the next election, and we shouldn’t forget for a moment the power they hold. The Garden State is among the highest in the nation for union membership, making this feat all the more remarkable. But Christie has time to make his case and demonstrate results from these reforms. If enough Jersey denizens understand how much trouble their state economy is in, just maybe the governor has already made the sale.