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The 2015 Pension 40: Chris Christie

No. 3 Chris Christie, Governor / New Jersey

Chris Christie
Governor /
New Jersey
Last year: 9

With less than a year before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, 53, is still running for the GOP nomination despite polling at about 3 percent. Back in the Garden State, Christie has another, even less promising number to ponder: $83 billion in unfunded state pension liabilities. For the past decade or so, starting with governor Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey cut back on pension payments — when it didn’t skip them outright. “Politically, it was the path of least resistance,” says Tom Byrne, head of Princeton, New Jersey–based Byrne Asset Management and chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council (and son of a former Democratic governor, Brendan Byrne), which oversees the state’s pension investments. “This is the fault of the past six governors, both Democrat and Republican, who didn’t push through the contributions.” The system is only about 63 percent funded. Christie signed bills in March 2010 and June 2011 that mandated higher contributions from plan members, the freezing of cost-of-living increases, lower payouts to new hires and the system’s contractual right to full state funding. But in May 2015 he kicked the can down the road. Arguing that the problem wasn’t caused by his administration, he said New Jersey would pay $1.3 billion into the system rather than the $3.1 billion promised in the 2011 bill. In June the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Christie could withhold the funds, and this fall the court heard arguments about whether the 2011 freezing of cost-of-living hikes is constitutional. Christie created a pension commission that released a plan in February that would shift the pension burden to local districts, forcing a bump in already-steep property taxes. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s credit rating has been steadily downgraded, state-issued securities have been beaten down, and pension fund performance has fallen, forcing the fund to seek higher-fee alternative assets — the vicious cycle of a pension system in distress.

The 2015 Pension 40

1. Bruce Rauner
2. John & Laura Arnold
Laura and John Arnold Foundation
3. Chris Christie
New Jersey
4. Randi Weingarten
AmericanFederation of Teachers
5. Phyllis Borzi
U.S. Department
of Labor
6. Kevin de León
7. Alejandro García Padilla
Commonwealth ofPuerto Rico
8. Laurence Fink
9. Rahm Emanuel
10. Sean McGarvey
North AmericanBuilding Trades Unions
11. John Kline
12. J. Mark Iwry
U.S. Treasury
13. Damon Silvers
14. Jeffrey Immelt
Electric Co.
15. Joshua Gotbaum
Brookings Institution
16. Robin Diamonte
United Technologies Corp.
17. Mark Mullet
18. Terry O'Sullivan
Laborers' International Union of North America
19. Raymond Dalio
Bridgewater Associates
20. Ted Wheeler
21. Thomas Nyhan
Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund
22. Karen Ferguson & Karen Friedman
Pensions Rights Center
23. Randy DeFrehn
National Coordinating Committee forMultiemployer Plans
24. Robert O'Keef
Motorola Solutions
25. Caitlin Long
Morgan Stanley
26. Kenneth Feinberg
The Law Offices
of Kenneth R. Feinberg
27. Orrin Hatch
28. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Center for Retirement Initiatives, Georgetown University
29. Ian Lanoff
Groom Law Group
30. Joshua Rauh
Stanford Graduate School of Business
31. Ted Eliopoulos
California Public Employees' Retirement System
32. Edward (Ted) Siedle
Benchmark Financial Services
33. Teresa Ghilarducci
New School for Social Research
34. Denise Nappier
35. W. Thomas Reeder Jr.
Pension BenefitGuaranty Corp.
36. Hank Kim
National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems
37. Paul Singer
Elliott Management Corp.
38. Bailey Childers
National PublicPension Coalition
39. Amy Kessler
Prudential Financial
40. Judy Mares
U.S. Labor Department

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