Ex-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tells pension panel he is bullish about economy

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told New Jersey's pension panel on Thursday that he is optimistic about the nation's economy but cautioned the world can be "messy."

Geithner testified before the State Investment Council, keeping his comments broad and focused on the U.S. economy.

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He drew some laughs from the panel and the 50 people in the audience when he cited a former colleague during a discussion on European interest rates.

"If you think I've said anything in response to your question, you're mistaken," he said.

He did not directly address New Jersey in his opening statement but said unless there's an "external shock" he thinks the economy will continue to grow.

Touching on the transportation trust fund, which lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie are debating how to fund behind the scenes, Council Vice Chairman Brendan T. Byrne Jr. asked whether falling deficits and aging capital could mean increased investment in infrastructure.

Geithner said federal, across-the-board budget cuts came at the expense of public investments.

"If you don't spend more to improve infrastructure you can ask yourself: Are you really saving money?" Geithner said.

The council oversees the state's $80 billion pension plan that funds retirements of state employees.

Public employee unions are suing to compel Christie's administration to make larger contributions into the system. But Christie has said the state doesn't have the money.

The council is also set to discuss ethics policies and political contribution rules.