The union bitterly opposed an overhaul of public employee retirement benefits by Christie and the Legislature in 2011 and spent millions of dollars on anti-Christie ads during his gubernatorial campaigns.
The governor warned that the state must reduce its pension and debt-service payments in the coming year. They’re scheduled to rise by a combined total of nearly $1 billion.
Democrats oppose the prospect of failing to make promised pension contributions or cutting payouts to retirees.
Christie also promised to present choices to overhaul the state’s tax system next month when he presents his budget proposal but did not offer an insight on how he might want to do that. A tax cut he proposed two years ago foundered in the Legislature.
As Christie left the chamber after his speech, he tersely shook the hand of the Democrat leading one of several investigations into the scandal, which the governor has denied knowledge of and first apologized for last week. He’s also fired a close aide, and others on his team have resigned.
His State of the State address and inauguration scheduled for next week were intended to launch a second term that’s considered a key building block for his political future. After his November re-election, his advisers suggested he had just a one-year window to stack up accomplishments as a can-do, bipartisan leader before his lame-duck status — and a prospective White House campaign — start to interfere.
The recent revelations may have slammed that window shut. Though he’s not announced plans to run, Christie is an early front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination who now is working to rebound from the scandal, the most serious threat to his administration and political ambitions so far.
(AP Photo: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J.)