Legal wrangling over NJ pension commitment extends into New Year

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney  (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

After a year full of lawsuits over New Jersey cutting payments to the state pension system, the New Year is expected to follow suit with more legal wrangling.


Pension reforms enacted in 2011 require the Christie administration to make a full payment into the system to restore the long-term financial health of the funds, said state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“It’s kind of ironic that the administration is now claiming a law that the governor used to run around the country, saying, ‘Look at New Jersey and look at what we can do in a bipartisan way,’ is now saying — when it’s his time to man up and pay it — is now saying we can’t afford it,” Sweeney said.

Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders say they’re hoping to find the financial means for the state to fully fund the payments needed to chip away at more than $80 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

“We have to pay in to this. If we don’t pay into it, it just grows. I don’t know what the alternatives are. Commitments were made, and we want to make sure we honor those,” said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto.

A judge ruled a drop in tax collections was justification for cutting payments for the fiscal year that ended over the summer.

Public workers unions filed a lawsuit challenging a $1.5 billion cut in the 2015 payment. Legal arguments are scheduled for mid-January.

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