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For Immediate Release

Monday, December 20, 2010

AFSCME Response to One-Sided 60 Minutes Report on State and Local Budgets

Washington, DC — 

Last night on 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft’s segment correctly noted that many of our state and local governments are struggling to close looming budget gaps. But his one-sided report failed to identify the root causes of this crisis, or barely recognize the sacrifices that public employees have made to help to address these deficits since our financial system nearly collapsed more than two years ago. During these difficult times, public employees have helped bring budgets back into balance by sacrificing pay and benefits. However, the 60 Minutes report relied too heavily on testimony by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie which falsely blamed public employees and unions for the fiscal challenges that have arisen because of the irresponsible behavior of Wall Street and Christie’s predecessors.

Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), had this to say:

“Chris Christie is more interested in scoring political points than solving state and local budget challenges and getting the economy moving. The fact is, hundreds of thousands of public employees, just like private sector employees, have been laid off and taken pay and benefit cuts – even as Wall Street executives lined their pockets with taxpayer money and took home huge bonuses. And as Steve Kroft’s report noted, much of the pension problem stems from the fact that politicians did not contribute to their pension funds.

“Contrary to what Christie would have Americans believe, public employee pensions are not the problem. The average pension for an AFSCME member is just $19,000, and eighty percent of this comes from investment returns and contributions by the employees themselves. The challenge can be met if state and local governments, began contributing just 1.5 percent more of their budgets toward their pension funds in the years ahead.

“The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges is a robust economy – one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue. Christie’s decision to scuttle 6,000 new jobs to build a needed tunnel between New Jersey and New York shows that he’s more interested in scoring political points than he is in solving the problem.

“Public employees stand ready to help state and local governments get through the economic storm. But to suggest that they have not sacrificed is a lie, and we will not allow politicians like Chris Christie to blame the economic crisis on working and middle class Americans.”