In light of a Gov. Chris Christie’s recent veto of legislation that would have required the state to make quarterly pension payments, State Senator Shirley Turner said it’s now time to take the issue to the voters. Turner introduced legislation recently that would guarantee that the state pays its pension bill each year by making it a requirement under the state’s Constitution. The payments would be made on a quarterly basis.
“If the governor doesn’t want to take responsibility and live up to the commitments he made, then we need to force him,” said Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Voters understand the stakes and the dangers of missing the payments, which only unnecessarily add pension costs down the road. Voters also understand that you don’t break your promises.”
Christie recently vetoed a bill that would have required the state to make quarterly pension payments. The bill, which received bipartisan support in both houses, would stop governors like Christie from waiting until the end of the fiscal year to decide whether or not to make the critical payment.
Democrats submitted a budget for fiscal year 2015 that made the required pension payment, paid in part by asking the state’s wealthy to pay their fair share. Christie vetoed the budget, cutting the pension payment by $1.6 billion and protecting the wealthy.
“We can not allow any wiggle room on this issue, nor should the earned pensions of hard-working employees fall victim to partisan politics or poor economic policies,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “We made a clear bargain with New Jerseys’ workers: if they pay more for their retirement benefits then the state will finally live up to its obligations and make its pension payments.”
The bill proposes an amendment to the State Constitution that would close the door to any similar last-minute cuts in the future. Not fully funding the pension system is not only unfair to state workers, it will also create a need for even higher contributions in the future to make up for today’s shortfalls. [TLS]