Mandating N.J. pension payments hinges on formula for transportation trust fund

The legislative stalemate on how to replenish New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund might prevent a proposed public workers’ pension amendment from getting on the November ballot.

Senate President Steve Sweeney is blocking the measure passed by the Assembly to restock the trust fund because it calls for raising the gas tax while cutting the sales tax — and he said the state cannot afford the loss in revenue.

Meanwhile, the constitutional amendment forcing quarterly state payments into the pension system will need Senate approval soon to get on the ballot.

“It’s in jeopardy if we can’t fund it,” Sweeney said Friday. “What if I pass the Assembly bill because we get to a point where everything is shut down, everyone is screaming at everybody, and the economy is being harmed in a very serious way.

“Or we even come somewhere close to it, how do I fund the pension at that point?”

Sweeney said the trust fund for road and bridge maintenance and repairs must be replenished in a way that gives the state enough revenue for any constitutionally mandated pension payments before he will allow a vote on the amendment.

“People are getting mad at me now because I haven’t put the constitutional amendment up for the pension yet. How do you do that when you do what they did in the Assembly? You can’t do both. It’s not possible.

“How do you constitutionally mandate a pension payment and not provide any way of funding it?” he said. “So I’ve got to get the TTF fixed because I’d like to get the other one done.”

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