NJ governor suggests Washington follow NJ's lead

By the Associated Press | June 24, 2011 | 10:59 AM EDT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie thinks politicians in Washington could learn a thing or two from New Jersey.

The Republican governor this week reached a compromise with Democratic leaders in the legislature to require public employees to pay more for health and pension benefits.

"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.

The measure requires 500,000 teachers, police, firefighters and other public workers to pay a larger portion of their health insurance premiums based on income, making their contributions more in line with the private sector. It also increases their pension contributions.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the governor called the deal his greatest accomplishment since taking office in 2010.

"It's a monumental accomplishment, it really is. Very few states have done anything this sweeping in one piece of legislation," Christie told the AP, calling underfunded pension and health care obligations "the core problems of government spending in the country."

The state's retirement funds are underfunded by $110 billion. Christie has estimated that the reform legislation will save the state $132 billion over the next 30 years.

On Friday, Christie said President Barack Obama should follow his lead and personally engage in budget talks with lawmakers.

Speaking on NBC's "Today" show Friday, Christie said "you can't negotiate through a second person" and suggested the first thing Obama do about debt-ceiling talks is "show up."