Following Gov. Chris Christie’s budget address, Sen. Jennifer Beck (R) told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the governor’s speech was a call to action.
“I really would call it more a call to action, I mean it’s a critical issue,” said Beck. “State of New Jersey’s facing it. I think other states are facing it and certainly our nation faces it. The growth of our obligations for our pensions, health benefits and debt is eating up our budget and leaving us with very little discretion as how we invest in new innovation and new ideas.”
Meanwhile, state Democrats have said that the state’s economy can grow out of the problem it’s in. According to Beck, this year’s estimated growth is 5.8 percent and most of the growth has been taken away by the growth of obligations to pensions, health benefits and debt service. Beck said that she is not sure if the state can grow its way out of the debt problem.
As for pension reform, Beck said that the governor’s speech was a critical message about how the state moves forward. This year, about $2.2 billion will be added toward the pension system, according to Beck.
“It is going to squeeze out other priorities. It’s going to squeeze out education, it’s going to squeeze out reforms and corrections, priorities that we have for the environment. All of those things are important to each and every one of us in the legislature and all the citizens that we represent,” said Beck.
Although pension reform still gets debated, Beck said that a current retiree will not have their pensions touched or changed. Changing health benefits or pension payments are areas that the legislature needs to look at and discuss, she said.
“The bottom line is that this year we’re not raising taxes, we have lived up to our commitment to pensioners, we’re making sure we’re going to fund our obligation towards the pension system in a way it hasn’t been done in decades,” said Beck. “And the call to action here is that if we do not address the growing cost, then we’re not going to be able to fund other priorities in the state of New Jersey.”