Chris Christie is a man with presidential ambitions, but as governor of New Jersey he confronts a major problem: The $79.7 billion state pension system has a funding ratio of 50.8 percent and a shortfall of $47.2 billion. If the problem is not addressed, New Jersey faces cuts to services, rising taxes (in an already high-tax state) and bond downgrades. The pension woes began with New Jersey’s last Republican governor, Christine Todd Whitman, who in 1997 issued $2.75 billion in bonds to fund the state’s pension payments and reduce the state’s outlays; subsequently, New Jersey stopped paying into the fund, and after the 2000 stock market crash, returns failed to cover interest on the bonds. The state has struggled ever since. Christie, 52, signed reform legislation in March 2010 and again in June 2011. The reforms were heralded as bipartisan efforts, with public employees accepting increased contributions and benefit cuts for new hires, and the state agreeing to boost obligations. In May 2014, however, Christie announced that rather than make the record $2.75 billion payment agreed upon in 2010, the state would only pay $1.3 billion over 14 months; he said his administration should not have to bear the burden of past bad decisions. After unions took this to court, the administration argued that the 2010 agreement wasn’t legal. In August, Christie announced the formation of a New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission. “No idea is off the table,” he said. In its first report the panel estimated that pension and health care obligations gave New Jersey a $90 billion funding deficit. With presidential politics heating up, it remains to be seen if Christie will tackle reform or leave it to his successor.