Christie faces row as staff told to pay more for benefits
New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie will make his annual budget address today, and he is expected to ask state employees to increase contributions toward benefits to help with a projected $10.5 billion deficit.
A similar proposal in Wisconsin led to a week of protests.
Recently elected Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill targets public workers to deal with a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. Walker asked for an 8 percent increase in what workers pay toward health care and pensions; the workers have agreed. Walker says it is also necessary to abolish collective bargaining, though he has not explained why.
The Wisconsin assembly will resume session today. Fourteen Democratic members left the state last week rather than be forced to vote on Walker’s bill. Though 19 Republicans are available, fiscal measures require at least 20 members, so the budget bill can’t be voted on until one or more Democrats return.
Starting last Tuesday, an estimated 30,000 people gathered at the Capitol in Madison to protest Walker’s proposals. The crowd grew to an estimated 55,000-60,000 on Saturday.
The majority of the protestors are teachers and students. Hundreds of teachers have called in sick to join the protests.
One difference between Wisconsin and New Jersey is the degree of support for the unions. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, although 62 percent of N.J. voters have a favorable opinion of public-school teachers, only 27 percent have a favorable opinion of their union, the New Jersey Education Association. A much larger 44 percent have an unfavorable view of the union.
Source: Quinnipiac University poll.
More info at: www.quinnipiac.edu/x1299.xml?ReleaseID=1557