Christie expected to address N.J. pension system deficit

 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver a budget address to the state Legislature Tuesday.  Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson (left), and Senate President Steve  Sweeney, D-Gloucester,  say they're counting  on the governor to address the state's pension system shortfall. (Mel Evans/AP photo)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver a budget address to the state Legislature Tuesday. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson (left), and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, say they're counting on the governor to address the state's pension system shortfall. (Mel Evans/AP photo)

The Democratic leaders of the New Jersey Legislature say they’ll be paying close attention to the state pension payments Gov. Chris Christie includes in the budget plan he’ll present to lawmakers Tuesday.

New Jersey’s public worker retirement system is $40 billion short of what’s needed to cover future benefits.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto said it’s critical that Christie’s budget proposal include about $1.8 billion for state pension payments in the next budget year.

“That money needs to be there and if he holds true to that, we can start coming out of our problems,” said Prieto, D-Hudson.

The Christie administration previously proposed paying that much, said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“There’s no reason for it not to be in there because as of now our revenues are exceeding what we’ve projected,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

Democrats are pursuing a constitutional amendment that would ramp up state pension contributions and require quarterly payments.

The legislative leaders also hope Christie will indicate that he’s committed to finding a solution to replenish the fund that covers road and bridge repairs that will run out of money by the end of the current fiscal year.

Prieto would also like Christie to voice support for his anti-poverty initiatives.

“It’s a Republican administration. We get no heads up on what he’s going to say,” Prieto said. “So we’ll be reactive, but at the end of the day I know now that he’s going to focus on New Jersey, and I look forward to working with him and the Senate president to get things accomplished.”

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