August-6-2016

Fixing The Pension System

View Senator Sweeney’s recent Op-Ed in the Star-Ledger on this issue.

Senate President Sweeney recently indicated that he would like to defer a vote on SCR-2, which is his legislation that would put a constitutional amendment to require pension payments on the ballot. In response, the NJEA has threatened legislators and county party leaders in an attempt to pressure an immediate vote.

Senator Sweeney believes the amendment must be put before the voters when its chances of passage are highest.

Background

Senator Sweeney has been pushing Governors and fellow legislators to address the health of New Jersey’s public employee pension systems since 2002. There has been no bigger advocate on pension issues that Senator Sweeney.

The Senate President’s motivation for the reform package of 2011 was to save the pension system from going under, to ensure that hard-working public employees received their pensions during retirement that they had been counting on throughout their careers.

During the 2011 reform negotiations, Senator Sweeney sponsored a constitutional amendment to require pension payments by the state. This provision was co-sponsored by Minority Leader Tom Kean (R), but the effort died in the assembly.

After Governor Christie reneged on his commitment to pay into the pension system, breaking his own law, Senator Sweeney joined with public employee unions to sue the Governor. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against the workers, giving Governor Christie a pass.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Senator Sweeney began advocating for a constitutional amendment for the second time during his career. The Senate President worked with public employee union leaders to draft the amendment, and remains committed to its passage today.

The Senate President’s primary concern is seeing the amendment put on the ballot and passed by the residents of New Jersey. If the ballot is voted down, hard working public employees will have to wait a minimum of two more years to try again.

Perhaps more importantly, if the amendment is voted down it will give Governor Christie and future elected officials a “public mandate” to avoid fixing the pension system. This is the worst case scenario.

Ongoing Transportation Trust Fund negotiations and a statewide shut down of road projects has created a negative climate of public opinion. A road funding proposal being pushed by Governor Christie would leave New Jersey with a $2 billion budget hole.

Given these issues, Senator Sweeney does not believe it is prudent to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot this year.

His number one priority is the passage of the amendment by the voters, because without its passage, the pension system will remain on unstable footing.

Senator Sweeney has advocated for common sense solutions to fix the pension system during his entire career in the New Jersey Legislature.

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