Friday, June 17, 2011

Christie Wins Media Plaudits For Benefits Deal

Here's what editorial and opinion leaders are saying about the landmark deal that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has struck with Democratic legislative leaders:

Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Christie Has Changed The Terms Of Political Debate In New Jersey, But Mr. Sweeney Deserves Special Taxpayer Praise For Bucking His Party's Union Base”:

“Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and the state's top two Democratic leaders struck a deal on Wednesday to modify public employee retirement and health benefits, which would save the state at least $122 billion over the next 30 years. Unions like to portray such reforms as GOP assaults on labor, but Garden State Democrats are demonstrating that saving taxpayer money isn't always partisan…While the compromise with Democrats scales back Mr. Christie's original proposal, it's still a large step in the right direction…Mr. Christie has changed the terms of political debate in New Jersey, but Mr. Sweeney deserves special taxpayer praise for bucking his party's union base.”  (Editorial, “Democrats for Pension Reform,” Wall Street Journal, 6/17/11)

New York Post, “Jersey Leads Again”:

“… the deal should be a model for New York, which is rapidly sinking under the weight of its own soaring public-pension costs. Under the terms of the agreement, employees will contribute significantly more to their health-care premiums and pension benefits, though still well below what private-sector workers pay…These fixes are long overdue for the Garden State, whose pension and health-care funds are short a total $110 billion, thanks to years of non-payments and soaring costs. (And kudos to Democratic leaders there, who cut this election-year deal despite stiff opposition from the unions and their own members.) New Jersey is just the latest state to acknowledge the need for pension and health-care reform for its public employees. And it's not just Republicans arguing that things have to change. "New Jersey is setting a model for dealing with these problems in an honest, forthright and bipartisan way," said Christie. Now it's time for New York to come to grips with its own grim public-pension and health-care realities. Albany needs to pass reforms -- and never mind what the unions will say.”  (Editorial, “Jersey leads again,” New York Post, 6/17/11)

The Newark Star-Ledger, “Compromise. Tackling A Critical Issue…The Deal Saves Money. Billions. And We Applaud It”  

“It’s the Miracle of State Street: a historic agreement to roll back pension and health benefits for public employees — forged across party lines, with a testy governor and a reluctant Assembly leader, despite angry union opposition and a Democratic civil war. Compromise. Tackling a critical issue. Legislators doing what’s best for the state instead of what’s politically expedient for them — while telling unions to take a flying leap into the Delaware River. Whoa, this is still New Jersey, right? Is it the perfect deal? Of course not. Those are rare in politics — especially when emotions are involved. Is it a good deal for taxpayers? Unquestionably. It’s the first knot in the rescue rope as the state tries to pull itself out of a terrifyingly deep $120 billion pension and health benefits hole while also plotting a course toward long-term solvency…There is plenty of credit to go around: to Christie for prodding lawmakers and agreeing to compromises; to state Senate President Stephen Sweeney for starting this work before Christie arrived; to Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver for standing up to her caucus and the unions…The deal saves money. Billions. And we applaud it.”  (Editorial, “Benefits deal puts state on the right track,” The Newark Star-Ledger Editorial Board, 6/17/11)

Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Agreement Is Laudatory As An Example Of Bipartisan Compromise”

“For months, battle lines have been drawn in New Jersey's debate over health and pension benefits for state workers. On most days, compromise seemed out of the question. But now, Republican Gov. Christie and Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney are making progress with bipartisan legislation that would force public employees to pay more for benefits and raise the retirement age for new employees from 62 to 65. The unions have balked at not being able to negotiate concessions under collective bargaining. But with New Jersey facing an obvious and escalating problem, the Senate budget committee Thursday understandably approved the Christie/Sweeney proposal. Whatever shortcomings the measure may have, it is welcome news to taxpayers who want to see spending decreased…the agreement is laudatory as an example of bipartisan compromise…” (Editorial, “Progress on benefits,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/17/11)

Tom Moran, The Newark Star-Ledger, “New Jersey Politics Worked Thursday Because The Leadership On All Sides Showed Courage”:

“Mark this as the day that the spell was broken, the day that the public worker unions finally lost their stranglehold on the Legislature, the day that Democrats ginned up the courage to confront the most important special interest group in their coalition. Union leaders were in a daze, like jilted lovers who couldn’t believe the breakup was actually happening. This is Jersey, and they have been kings for a long time, even when Republicans were in power…That’s right. New Jersey politics worked Thursday because the leadership on all sides showed courage. Strange as it may seem to say this, the state was well served by its politicians. Gov. Chris Christie pushed this cause hard, and to great effect. Despite his pugilistic style in public, he made key compromises behind closed doors that allowed this to happen. Senate President Steve Sweeney came up large as well. Many of his fellow Democrats hate him for it, as do the public worker unions. He wants to run for higher office, and this could snuff his chances. But he did it anyway. The surprise was Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Her fellow Democrats constantly whisper that she is a weak leader, and is tainted because she won the speakership through a backroom deal arranged by the bosses. But this was her defining moment…We don’t see this kind of behavior in Washington these days. Sweeney and Oliver are confronting their own coalition, telling the unions they can’t have their way because its simply unreasonable.” (Tom Moran, “Real leadership sang louder than N.J. unions' tired refrains,” The Star-Ledger, 6/17/11)

Alfred P. Doblin, The Bergen Record, “The World As We Know It May Never Be The Same”:

“Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, joined with Republican Governor Christie and state Republican minority leaders in announcing an agreement on reforms to the public pension and employee health benefits systems. The world as we know it may never be the same. Public employee unions are up in arms. The New Jersey Education Association is desperate. It has long been able to do what it wants because it controlled public officials. It is fast becoming irrelevant. Key Democrats are no longer concerned about union support. When the moon is eclipsed, tides do strange things…In Wisconsin, Democrats fled, rather than vote for union reforms. In New Jersey, Democrats bled. They are fighting to the death over what it means to be a Democrat, right here and now. They are in a tough place. They can defy the leadership they elected and stand with unions and hope those unions can get them reelected. Or they can risk standing up to those unions and enact sweeping reforms…And as for the unions rallying against Sweeney, Oliver and Christie, it’s too late. The tide has gone out, that ship has sailed and Chris Christie is at the helm.”  (Alfred P. Doblin, “Public unions are left high and dry,” The Record, 6/17/11)

Jennifer Rubin, Wall Street Journal, “Unflinching Resolve By The Governor And A Responsible Leader Of The State Senate”:

“This is New Jersey. No tax hikes. No end to collective bargaining. Just unflinching resolve by the governor and a responsible leader of the state senate. By gosh, if Democrats in Trenton can forgo tax hikes and pass real entitlement cuts, can’t they do it in D.C.?”  (Jennifer Rubin, “Christie’s breakthrough deal,” Wall Street Journal, 6/17/11)

The Burlington County Times, “It Is Bipartisan — A Compromise Between A Republican Governor And A Democratic State Senate President”:

“New Jersey’s public employee pension system is on life support — so desperately underfunded that retirees in the very near future may be issued IOUs. But here we are, looking at empty coffers. Something has to be done. The same goes for benefits costs. Counties and municipalities can’t continue to pay the lion’s share of health insurance premiums, which are exempt from the 2 percent cap, without raising taxes. Something has to be done. We realize the Sweeney/Christie bill isn’t perfect. But it is bipartisan — a compromise between a Republican governor and a Democratic state Senate president. Who would have predicted that six months ago?”  (Editorial, “Focus on education,” The Burlington County Times, 6/17/11)

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