Washington (CNN) – Gov. Chris Christie offered some strong rhetoric to his colleagues from New Jersey Tuesday night, cautioning that if they don't further overhaul the state's pension system, they could set their state on a path toward financial ruin.
The Republican governor was speaking at the 77th 'Walk to Washington' dinner hosted by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.
The annual event brings together the state's Congressional delegation as well as business executives, state lawmakers and local political figures. The group departs Newark on a chartered train every year and makes multiple stops along the way to the nation's capital to pick up more attendees before dinner.
While the event is considered a big networking opportunity for New Jersey leaders, Christie was in no mood for merry-making.
"This speech is not about me coming here and patting you on the back and telling you how great you are. And I'm not here for you to tell me that either," he said to a silent room, though many Democrats were noticeably absent from the audience.
His remarks come after financial analysts at Standard & Poor's downgraded New Jersey's debt rating from AA- to A+ earlier this month. The group cited the state's budget practices and massive debt of $52 billion the state owes to the pension system. Christie, a potential presidential candidate, announced earlier this year that his budget includes a $2.25 billion payment to the pension fund, the state's largest payment ever.
Along with the Democratic-controlled legislature, his administration carried out major reforms to the pension system during his first term. But, as he has many times before in his recent town halls, the governor warned the state must make more fiscal changes.
"If we expect the people in Washington, D.C. to finally step up to the plate and meet their obligations and tell us the truth on both sides of the aisle, then we better do it ourselves in our own state, or we're nothing but hypocrites," he said.