Gov. Christie: Union’s labor complaint a ‘good sign’
May 20, 2011 for The Associated Press
by Josh Lederman
PRINCETON, N.J. — The unfair labor practice claim filed against Gov. Chris Christie by the state’s largest public workers union is a sign that contract negotiations are going well, Christie said Friday.
In its complaint brought last week, the Communications Workers of America claimed Christie has refused to negotiate on its proposal for health care benefits.
“I know I’m doing well because they’ve already sued me once,” the Republican governor told a public forum at Princeton University. “When they start suing you, that’s when you know you’re winning.”
But union leader Hetty Rosenstein said the CWA didn’t sue the governor but instead filed a complaint with the state Public Employee Relations Commission.
“Once again, the governor’s statements are not quite accurate and seem to be more designed to get some kind of public reaction than what’s actually taking place,” Rosenstein told The Associated Press.
Responding to a question on whether New Jersey should end collective bargaining for state employees, Christie said he believes in “truly adversarial collective bargaining.”
“There’s no indication he believes in collective bargaining — adversarial or otherwise,” Rosenstein said.
Christie has risen to national prominence in part because of his high-profile tiffs with unions that represent the state’s teachers and public employees. He has asked state workers to pay 30 percent of their health care premiums, phased in for current employees over three years.
Christie also urged residents to not shy away from further state spending cuts, despite four consecutive months of job growth in the private sector and an unexpected increase in tax revenues.
“We can’t undo a decade’s worth of harm in a year and a half,” said Christie, who took office in January 2010. “Just because we see a glimmer of light does not mean we can stop on this journey.”
Reminding his audience of New Jersey’s $54 billion underfunded pension system and highest-in-the-nation property taxes, Christie said the state teetered on a fiscal precipice when he took office, done in by a decade of unrealistic promises by politicians, taxes and regulatory policies that drove business out of the state.
Touting his own accomplishments to date, Christie said he’s cut spending by 2.6 percent, kept big businesses like Panasonic and Bayer in the state and reduced regulations by one-third.
Christie took aim at the “millionaire’s tax,” which expired in 2009 but has been peddled by Democrats in the Legislature as a way to avoid cuts to state services. He attributed the surprise announcement last week of a tax surplus for this year and next — estimated to be $500 million to $900 million — to pro-business policies that haven’t unfairly taxed the wealthy.
The governor addressed the Center for Economic Policy Studies at Princeton University, a frequent venue for policy addresses by national and international leaders.