TRENTON – In light of Gov. Chris Christie’s recent veto of legislation that would have required the state to make quarterly pension payments, State Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) said it’s now time to take the issue to the voters. Turner introduced legislation recently that would guarantee the state makes full pension payments each year by making it a requirement under the state’s Constitution. The payments would be made on a quarterly basis.
“Our pension system has been historically underfunded, and the situation has reached serious proportions” said Turner. “This issue does not only impact public workers; it impacts every taxpayer in this state. Missing the payments will only increase pension costs down the road and potentially lead to other unforeseen costs.”
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.
Senator Turner pointed to a report released earlier this year that warns that the pension fund will become insolvent in 15 to 20 years if the state fails to make progress on dealing with its pension deficits. Democrats submitted a budget for fiscal year 2015 that made the required pension payment, paid in part by asking the state’s millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share. Christie vetoed the pension payment and placed public pensions at further risk in favor of continuing to coddle the state’s wealthy.
“We can not allow any wiggle room on this issue,” said Senator Turner. “Requiring the payments to be made quarterly is fiscally responsible. The best way for the state to meet its obligation is with regular installments every quarter. The end of the year payment is unreliable and gives the Governor permission to renege on his obligation when he contrives a fiscal crisis based on false projected revenues. It’s not unprecedented for the state to make quarterly payments; the state makes other payments on a periodic basis rather than waiting until the end of the year.”
The bill proposes an amendment to the State Constitution that would close the door to any last-minute cuts in the future. The bill has been referred to the Senate State Government Committee.