NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - New Jersey's top elected leaders must deal with the ever-increasing cost of public employee health benefits and pensions or face a fiscal crisis, former Gov. Chris Christie predicted.
"If this problem does not get resolved, this state is going to be bankrupt," Christie said when he appeared at Rutgers University's Douglas College Student Center on Tuesday.
"We have the most expansive, expensive health insurance of anywhere in the country. We can't continue this way," he said.
Saying he was vilified by teachers when he pushed for public employees to continue to fund their health benefits, Christie predicted that state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) would start the discussion on making changes. The former governor derogatorily characterized current Gov. Phil Murphy as "the hero" of the teachers union.
Rutgers' Eagleton Institute of Politics hosted Christie, who talked about his book "Let Me Finished," and signed copies of the book after his public comments. The event was moderated by his former campaign strategist Mike DuHaime, who is also a member of the university's Board of Trustees.
The public address and the book signing were kept short as the former governor later appeared on Channel 7 WABC to his give an analysis of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, with Christie speaking from the Eagleton Insitute.
During his comments at the student center, he criticized Trump's handling of immigrants. Trump is demanding the construction of a wall on the nation's southern border to stop immigrants from entering illegally, a measure that Democrats in Congress oppose as a waste of money that would fail to achieve the goal and would hurt people, he said.
"I believe there's got to be a way to resolve this problem in a way that positive," said Christie, who made a bid for president in 2016. "I've always believed this is a country of immigrants," he said, adding that Trump's battle has damaged the government and the Republican Party. Christie also said he would have treated Mexico and Canada less harshly over trade agreements.
The former two-term governor also talked about his time as head of Trump's transition team while working with the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. When Christie was U.S. Attorney before becoming governor, he prosecuted Kushner's father, Charles Kushner.
While head of presidential transition team, Chistie said, his relationship with Jared Kushner and other Trump advisors was "artificially good." Kushner acted friendly, even up to the night Trump won the election when Kushner wanted to get his photo taken with Christie.
"My mistake was that I took him at his word," Christie said. Two days after the election, Christie was fired from the team, reportedly because of Kushner.
Asked about Sen. Cory Booker's bid for president, the former governor said Booker has been his friend for 15 years. Running for the highest elected office is "absolutely overwhelming and an amazing opportunity," he said.
Christe called his time as New Jersey's governor "the greatest job in the state," and an incredible privilege.