Business groups oppose amending NJ constitution to force pension payments

 Michele S. Siekerka, president and CEO of The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, leads New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to a New Jersey Business and Industry event last week in East Windsor. She says a constitutional amendment under consideration the Legislature would hurt taxpayers. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Michele S. Siekerka, president and CEO of The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, leads New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to a New Jersey Business and Industry event last week in East Windsor. She says a constitutional amendment under consideration the Legislature would hurt taxpayers. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

A group representing the business community says a constitutional amendment being considered by New Jersey lawmakers would hurt the state’s economy.

 

The amendment would constitutionally mandate that the state make increased payments into the public employee pension system every quarter.

That would remove the flexibility to manage future state budgets, said Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

“What happens if, in any given year, there’s not enough revenue to make that constitutionally mandated multibillion-dollar payment?” she said. “New Jersey citizens, we believe, will face massive tax increases that will reach all — and I am going to repeat all — taxpayers.”

Siekerka says forcing the pension payments to be a budget priority would hurt the state’s ability to fund other services such as health care, education, and public safety.

“And when the money isn’t there if the legislature follows past practice, any need for new revenue likely will hit small business first and the hardest. This proposal will chill businesses investment.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney has insisted that the amendment will ensure the state lives up to its legal agreement to fund the pension system.

“Why does anyone think this is not an obligation? That’s what aggravates the hell out of me,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “It’s a real bill, it doesn’t go away, and I’m tired of people acting like it’s not our responsibility.”

If it gets enough support in the Legislature, the amendment could be on next year’s ballot.

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