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The Associated Press September 7, 2010, 2:11PM ET

NJ governor says he'll start laying out reforms

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Tuesday that he would use September to roll out a number of measures - some of them sure to be criticized - that he wants to see the Legislature pass by the end of the year.

He said he'll be addressing government ethics, pensions and benefits for public sector workers, ways to retain and attract businesses to the state and changing the public education system.

Tuesday's preview of his plans came as lawmakers in Trenton convened a hearing to shed more light on the biggest embarrassment so far in the swashbuckling Republican's eight months in office: How the state made an error on a federal application that likely cost the state a $400 million grant.

Christie appeared before a largely friendly crowd at the Packanack Lake Country Club. He boosted his chief accomplishment so far - closing an $11 billion state budget gap without raising taxes - and promised more action, but didn't give many details.

He said the first set of proposals would roll out Wednesday in another of several town hall meetings he is holding across New Jersey this month.

It's to deal with government ethics. "Not that New Jersey would ever need ethics reform, right?" quipped Christie, a former federal prosecutor who built a career out of pressing government corruption cases.

He said some measures would include barring officials from drawing more than one public salary at a time. The state has already barred officials from holding more than one elected post - but some politicians, including the president of the state Senate, Stephen Sweeney, were grandfathered in. Sweeney is also a freeholder in Gloucester County.

Christie was suggesting going ever further and cracking down on a common practice, where officials have multiple posts for multiple government agencies, for instance drawing salaries and pension benefits for serving as part-time judge in several communities.

"Nobody should have two offices. Nobody should have more than one public salary," he said. "That seems to me to make common sense."

He said that next week, he will unveil plans to rein in pensions and benefits for public workers.

He also said he wants legislators to submit the same financial disclosures that members of the executive branch do.

Already, he's calling for employees of state and local governments to be required to contribute to the cost of their health insurance and has reduced pension benefits for new employees. He said more changes need to be made for current employees and even retirees because the state's future pension liabilities are now $46 billion more than what's expected to be available to pay them.

"We'd better get reforms of this system," he said. "If we don't do it, we'll go belly up."

The governor said he expects to hear complaints from the New Jersey Education Association about his plans for the public school system. He didn't lay them out in detail.

But in the failed grant application, he called for paying teachers partly based on how well their students perform.

The idea is to hold educators accountable, but there's been some academic research that finds major flaws with how it's carried out elsewhere.

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