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'Hot and Sexy' Governor: 'I Want to Be Fair, But I Can't Be Stupid'

Chris Christie reiterates health care and pension reform proposals.

The crowd cheered as Gov. Chris Christie hit familiar targets—public workers' pensions and health care reform—addressing a filled-to-capacity  Center in Hopatcong on Wednesday.

But the morning's loudest ovation went to Sparta resident Debra Nicholson, who began her question at the town hall-style meeting—Christie's first in Sussex County—by calling the governor "hot and sexy."

Christie, a first-term Republican, laughed and said Nicholson should write a note to his wife, Mary Pat, with whom he celebrated a 25-year wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

But between jokes and claps from a mostly sympathetic audience, Christie returned to core tenets of his financial platform, heard often in similar meetings throughout New Jersey in recent months.

"I want to be fair, but I can't be stupid," he said.

Christie reiterated that he wants public workers to pay 30 percent of their health care premiums instead of 1.5 percent of their salary, the current contribution for many. He said health benefits for public employees makes up $4.9 billion of his $29 billion budget proposal. Christie said, under his plan, employees would be contributing the proposed 30 percent three years after its implementation.

"The majority of teachers in this state pay nothing for health insurance from the day they start until the day they're done. We can't have that anymore. It's not fair," he said.

Christie also reiterated his want for four fundamental changes in the state employees' pension system, which he said faces a $54 billion shortfall. He said legislators should raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65, roll back a 9 percent benefit increase from 2001, eliminate cost-of-living raises and increase workers' contributions.

Christie said the plan would cut the pension system's shortfall to $28 billion in 30 years. He said Democratic Senator Steve Sweeney's own pension proposals would take the shortfall to $108 billion over the same time period—and he said that's simply not aggressive enough.

"This is what's killing the state of New Jersey," he said. "The costs of pension and health care are destroying the state's economy, and now it's time for us to get to work."

Christie also said he didn't mind public unions protesting his pension plans—adding it was their right to make grievances known.

"I'm OK with it," he said. "The real question now is not if we change the pension system, but how we change it. If we don't, it will go belly up."

Responding a question by Nicholson (following her endorsement of the governor's sex appeal), Christie said he's dismayed Democrats have blocked his attempt to eliminate the Council on Affordable Housing, the state entity responsible for outlining municipality's obligations for fostering affording housing. Christie said he doesn't believe decisions about local planning should be micromanaged from Trenton.

He also said the Highlands Act, an environmental regulation meant to preserve water in northern New Jersey, was "based on a lie"—that property owners impacted by preservation would be compensated for any losses. He said the state's never been able to provide that money.

And Christie told Hopatcong special education teacher Danielle Kovach, named Sussex County's and New Jersey's 2010-11 Teacher of the Year, that he'd be glad to meet with her and other county teachers of the year about education issues.

Most commenters during the question-and-answer session complimented the governor. But some of his most ardent supporters were left out in the cold. Literally.

Doors opened around 9 a.m., at least half-hour before the scheduled time, as a line wrapped around the parking lot. Some Christie supporters, denied entrance when the building reached capacity at about 360 people, watched through windows.

Janet Durica, 69, of Stanhope, was one of them. She held a homemade "Go Christie!" sign as she stood outside.

"We were hoping a few people wouldn't show up," Durica said.

doug wicks March 10, 2011 at 02:14 PM
At the town hall meeting , he called on me and I asked him why he didn't take a 10% across the board reduction of the court approved 2009/10 school aid formula for this years state school aid instead of the ridiculous cut based upon the budget and he confessed that he was afraid of being dragged before the supreme court to justify such a cut. When I pressed him that that didn't make sense as the cut was based upon the already court approved formula he diverted int talking about how he was going to change the composition of the court over time -instead of what I believe he should do that is to ignore the court and distribute the cuts equally among all the districts -especially to the suburban districts that are the golden goose that financially supports the state.
n March 10, 2011 at 03:55 PM
OOOHHH, THOSE UNION THUGS! Your comment has no merit. The unions only negotiate for their people. If you want to blame someone, blame the school boards that approve the contracts, or blame the politicians that write laws that have unfunded mandates that we have to pay for. Nah, Just blame yourself for not voting or being involved with how government works.
David A Budd March 10, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Kindly show me where in the actual language of the Highlands Act that compensation of land owners is explicitly mentioned. I agree that various politicians, on both sides of the aisle, promised things that they had no legal capacity to deliver. This however has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the Highlands Act and the important water resources it was intended to protect. Go ahead and skewer the idiot politicians, but don't throw the baby (The Highlands Act) out with the dirty bathwater.
Gary May 18, 2011 at 03:10 PM
First, my verdict is still out on Christie, while I didn't vote for him I'm not totally in disagreement with some (operative word some) of his initiative. Now don't get me wrong I don't think pitting the Public vs. Private sectors is necessarily the most effective means to an end, however, that said; no one can deny the "guarenteed benefits" aka "entitlements" do not present a long term (unfunded) liability that needs to be addressed. However, and here's the rub for me. Why can't Christie (and the rest of our government for that matter) accept a dollar-for-dollar relationship between Cost Reduction and Revenue Production. Now, I'm not talking about purely penalizing a specific group of people (aka top 1-2%), I'm talking about identifying the $$$ you intend to cut and match them across your tax base for tax increases. Now for those of you who immediately intend to post about more taxes; I offer the initial premise. Either you believe there is a long term funding issue (irrespective of whether it is purely pension, purely health care cost, purely wages & salaries driven) that needs to be resolved to have a livable state, or your just not living in reality.
Sir May 19, 2011 at 02:45 AM
If anyone thinks that any elected official, once elected ,can walk into office and create immediate change is sadly mistken. Christie can't undo years of mismanagent in just a few months. It just doesn't work that way. And for Harriet - go back under the rock you crawled out from. You are out of touch and are part of the problem, not the solution.

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