New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined the crowded race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination with an official announcement Tuesday morning highlighting what he described as the financial leadership he delivered in Trenton.
Speaking at Livingston High School, where Christie graduated in 1980, the Republican governor highlighted balanced budgets with no tax increases since taking office in 2010.
"We rolled up our sleeves and we went to work and balanced six budgets in a row," said Christie pointing to how when he took office there was an $11 billion budget deficit. "We have refused to raise taxes on the people of this state for six years."
Christie did not mention pensions in his presidential announcement.
The state's underfunding of employee pensions has driven a series of ratings downgrades, and Christie successfully fought legal efforts challenging his 2015 budget veto of the full actuarially based $1.57 billion pension contribution, winning the case in the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Despite earning a legal victory that created increased budget flexibility, Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's cautioned that the decision will likely hamper the state's already deteriorated pension liability profile. New Jersey ranked the lowest among states making required pension payments in 2013 paying only 28% of its obligated contribution, according to Loop Capital Markets.
Moody's cut New Jersey to A2 from A1 in April citing the state's budget imbalance and pension funding shortfall. The state has suffered nine rating cuts since Christie took office.
The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which was one of the multiple public unions who filed suit against Christie after his pension veto, called on him to resign Tuesday pointing saying the state needs a "full-time governor" to address challenging financial issues at hand.
"Now that he's declared his desire to become president and will be working day and night to achieve that personal dream, it's time for him to step aside and let someone who is committed to New Jersey do the hard work of beginning to rebuild our great state," said NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer.