In a big blow to Governor Chris Christie, a judge in New Jersey ruled Monday that the governor violated a state law after he declined a full payment into the pension system of the state last year for public employees. He was ordered to fund it at this time.
The decision complicates further the hopes of Christie to revive his ambitions for the presidency, which have taken a hit recently as his ratings have sunk in New Jersey of late to their lowest of his entire tenure as governor.
At the same time, donors in the Republican Party have moved on to other presidential candidates.
The challenge is tough, with the economy in the state lagging far behind neighbors and the state surplus drying up for a governor who loathes raising taxes.
Christie now must scramble to find another $1.57 billion that he was ordered to pay by the judge.
The judge also ordered the governor’s administration to pay legal fees for the public sector unions who sued to force this payment. An appeal would be filed said Christie’s office.
Christie became nationally prominent after he declared that he fixed the problem with the pension laws he signed back in 2010 and 2011. The laws, reached in a compromise amongst the two major parties with a Legislature controlled by Democrats required its public employees to contribute more money toward their own pensions.
In return, the state had promised to increase the dollar amount it paid into the annual pension gradually over a period of seven years, until it fully met its required contribution during 2018.
Democratic and Republican governors both skipped the annual payments for many years. However, in 2014, faced with a budget that was not balanced for the year and the possibility of another unbalanced one in 2015, Christie announced he would not be making the full payment for two years.