Christie Signs Massive Benefits Overhaul Bill

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011  |  Updated 2:40 PM EDT
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Christie Signs Massive Benefits Overhaul Bill

AP

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday signed landmark legislation that requires public employees to pay sharply more for pension and health benefits.

The divisive legislation drove a wedge through the Democratic caucus that controls New Jersey's Assembly but was deeply divided on the bill. 

The measure was fast-tracked through the Legislature after Christie, a Republican, struck a deal with Democrats and Republicans who lead both houses. Just 14 Democrats voted in favor of the measure, with 32 opposed. All Republicans voted for it. 

The Senate passed the measure last Monday, also without a majority of Democrats backing it. Christie is expected to sign it soon. 

"I am going to guarantee you when it's finished (it) will become a national model and will be hailed across the country as an example of bipartisanship that the president and the Congress can only aspire to," Christie said of the legislation. 

Unions and opponents decried the bill because it imposes new health care contributions on a half-million government workers through legislation and suspends collective bargaining over health benefits.

Opponents also called the bill union-bashing; proponents insist higher contributions from workers are needed to shore up the state's retirement systems, which are underfunded by $110 billion. The bill is meant to bring public employee benefits more in line with the private sector, then restore bargaining after a four-year hiatus. 

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