GOP lawmaker offers plan to sweeten N.J. pension pot by $500 million

New Jersey Sen. Joe Pennacchio says a plan to end the limit on property tax deductions on state returns will give New Jerseyans some tax relief. (AP file photo)

New Jersey Sen. Joe Pennacchio says a plan to end the limit on property tax deductions on state returns will give New Jerseyans some tax relief. (AP file photo)

A Republican lawmaker sees a way of putting put more money into New Jersey’s public employee pension system than the nearly $1.4 billion Gov. Chris Christie has proposed in his budget.

An anticipated surplus in the budget could represent an extra pension payment, said Sen. Joe Pennacchio.

“So long as the economy doesn’t tank, so long as there are no emergencies, we can take up to $500 million and we could put it into the pension system,” said Pennacchio of Morris County. “But I would encourage the governor not to put any money into the system if the Democrats are going to continue to spend above and beyond what he’s introduced as far as the budget.”

To ensure there’s enough money in the surplus for the additional pension payment, Pennacchio said,  majority Democrats in the legislature would have to refrain from spending more than what the governor proposed.

“If they’re serious about funding the pension, they’re serious enough that they want to put it on as a constitutional obligation, I’m saying we don’t have to put it on as a constitutional obligation,” he said Wednesday. “If you guys hold down on spending, it does not require an additional tax because the money will be there, barring any unforeseen emergencies.”

It’s unlikely Democrats will go along with Pennacchio’s call to keep the budget as Christie proposed and reject legislators’ requests for spending additions.

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