Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Priorities

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Priorities

Article excerpt

BUDGETS -- in good times and bad -- are all about priorities. The residents of the state's developmental centers have never been a top priority to the Christie administration. On Wednesday, Christie got an earful in Fair Lawn from parents concerned about what will happen to their developmentally disabled children. But Christie wanted to talk pensions and health-benefit reforms just long enough to leave the state to attend an American Enterprise Institute Forum in Sea Island, Ga., on Thursday. That is the problem.

Christie wants to be president and these parents -- well, they just want to be parents.

New Jersey's budget and its priorities are very much tied to the governor's presidential ambitions. In 2011, he sealed a deal with Democrats in the Legislature to fix the state's underfunded public pension. Christie sold this bipartisan achievement across the nation. Except the fix required large payments by the state to increase annually over a seven-year period. When the piper had to be paid, Christie told him to settle for less.

Yet the governor cannot afford to have his signature legislative achievement unravel in 2015 if he wants to remain a contender for the 2016 Republican nomination, so he came up with a new plan -- an interesting one that deserves debate and study -- but his new plan does not absolve the state from making the agreed-to pension payments now.

This bit of history is needed to understand why Christie decided to bring back his Jersey road show. He needs to show voters outside New Jersey that he is a problem solver and in touch with his constituents. But he is not, and that is why the dominant presence of parents of developmentally disabled children at the Fair Lawn town-hall-style event is so significant.

Christie cannot make parents, who want to ensure that their developmentally disabled children will be safe and protected, into partisan hacks, into the "Buono (as in 2013 Democratic gubernatorial challenger Barbara Buono) voters" of the infamous George Washington Bridge emails. …

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