(CNN) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie believes the state will resolve its budget problems, but reiterated he won’t raise taxes to do it and will stick to his plan to cut pension payments to stem the red ink.
Appearing on the “Ask the Governor” program on New Jersey 101.5 on Monday, Christie argued again that public pension and health care obligations are unsustainable over the long term, and tough medicine is needed to close an $807 million budget shortfall.
Christie’s administration and the Democratic-controlled state legislature must figure out a solution to balance the $33 billion budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
“I won’t raise taxes on the people of New Jersey to pay for a Cadillac pension system,” he said, adding at one point that similar problems helped sink Detroit into bankruptcy.
“I don t want New Jersey to meet the same fate,” he said.
The Garden State’s credit rating has suffered due to a $52 billion public pension debt, a scenario that usually makes it more expensive to borrow money.
This year, Christie is proposing to pay $696 million in pension payments out of a scheduled $1.6 billion, and $681 million out of next year's planned $2.25 billion payment.
“I’m not picking on state workers or anyone else, but I have a budget to balance,” he said, adding that he has inherited the shortfall and is taking on the job to “clean it up.”
“I hate to bring the guy to bring the bad news,” he said.
Christie, who's seriously thinking about running for president, says the state is meeting its obligations to public sector workers and retirees, but warns the pension system won’t work years from now without reform.
“What I’m trying to is save the system over the long haul,” Christie said, adding that he eventually wants to start paying down the pension debt.
The health of the New Jersey economy would factor importantly in any Christie presidential campaign – a launching pad for him if it’s good and a point of criticism for rivals if it’s not.
Christie also chairs the Republican Governors Association, a group actively trying to frame a 2014 message that says states with Republican governors are more fiscally sound.