Framing himself as a politician who's unafraid to share "hard truths" with the American people, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is proposing an income cap on Social Security benefits as part of major restructuring plan announced ahead of a likely presidential bid.
The Republican delivered a speech Tuesday in New Hampshire outlining his ideas on reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - so-called entitlement programs.
As part of the plan, he proposed phasing out Social Security payments for those making more than $80,000 in other income and eliminating them for those making $200,000 or more a year.
"If you can afford to pay more for your health benefits, you should," Christie said. "And if you can't, you shouldn't.
"I'm suggesting that Americans pay into this system throughout the course of their life knowing that it will be there if they need it to support them. So that seniors will not grow old in back-breaking poverty. But if you are fortunate enough not to need it, you will have paid into a system that will continue to help Americans who need it most," he added. "That is what we have always done for each other through private charity and good government."
Christie also proposed raising the retirement ages for Social Security and Medicare eligibility and eliminating the payroll tax for seniors who stay in the workforce past age 62 to age 69.
The proposals are aimed at reducing the growth of entitlements by over $ 1 trillion over the next 10 years.
The speech tackled cherished benefit programs typically considered untouchable in politics. It came as Christie is facing an uphill battle pushing for a new pension overhaul in New Jersey, where he has been sued by more than a dozen public workers' unions for scaling back promised payments as part of a deal that was hailed as a landmark during his first term.
Now Christie says those changes didn't go far enough.
"I will not pander, I will not flip flop, and I'm not afraid to tell you the truth as I see it," Christie said on Tuesday.
He closed his speech by thanking the crowd for listening to him speak "in New Hampshire, coincidentally," a thinly veiled reference to a possible run for president.