It’s hard to imagine how much worse 2014 can get for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
Clearly, “Bridgegate” and the related scandals have taken a severe toll on the governor, his credibility, and his national standing. His poor job-creation record made matters worse. The fact that New Jersey’s debt has been downgraded six times, in part due to Christie’s decision to ignore warnings about unreliable budget projections, added insult to injury.
But the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran argues that this week, the bottom fell out. State pension reform, the “landmark achievement” of the governor’s first term in office, is no more.
[Christie] did only the easy part. He made public workers pay more for skimpier benefits, and froze cost-of-living adjustments for current retirees. That tough medicine was justified to deal with the emergency.But the other half of the deal was just as important. For his part, Christie promised to ramp up state payments into the pension funds gradually, over seven years, to make up for the scofflaw governors in both parties who shorted these funds over two decades.The point is that both sides had to absorb their share of pain. Public workers did their part. Now Christie is saying he will not do his, that he will short the funds by a whopping $2.4 billion through next year.
Moran added that Christie “had no plan,” was “hoping to ride a boom that never happened,” and “has no idea how he’ll spin this mess.”
By all indications, the New Jersey governor’s national ambitions haven’t faded, recent unpleasantness notwithstanding. Christie still occasionally makes not-so-subtle references to the kind of messages he’ll share with a national audience once he’s on the presidential campaign trail.
But in the short term, Christie faces policy challenges that are as important as they imminent. The governor can’t look too long at the horizon while problems he helped create rest at his feet.
And in the long term, I’m hard pressed to imagine what Christie might even try to say about his only experience in elected office. He can’t talk about his management sills, or his jobs record, or his fiscal record, or his legislative accomplishments.
Bluster does not a national campaign make.