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N.J. making progress on stabilizing public worker pension funds

New Jersey Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo says the state is making progress on increasing contributions to its public worker pension fund systems. (AP photo/Mel Evans)

New Jersey Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo says the state is making progress on increasing contributions to its public worker pension fund systems. (AP photo/Mel Evans)

New Jersey is making progress on dealing with the worst-funded pension system in the country, state lawmakers say .

Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo said Thursday the state is on the path to improvement.

“It’s been underfunded for many years. The last couple years we’ve made our fair share of contributions,” said Sarlo, D- Bergen. “I think the legislature has been holding the governor accountable to make the payments, and we’re on target to continue to make those payments.

“It’s going to take some time. You know, it’s been years and years of neglect.”

New Jersey’s distressed government worker pension system is now the worst funded in the U.S., according to a report by Bloomberg.

The state will need to continually increase its pension payments, said Sen. Tony Bucco, R-Morris.

“As the economy grows, hopefully, that will allow us to bring in more revenues, and that we can afford to do,” he said. “We have been using a lot of revenues in the past to pay for construction and bonding and whatnot. So we’re looking to restructure all of that.”

Investment strategies of the state pension funds need changes to improve returns, Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

“I believe that, instead of going to Wall Street to borrow money, that in the fixed portfolio of your pension system, borrow it from the pension system,” he said. “Right now, you might get 2 percent on a 10-year bond. Well, if I’m paying Wall Street 6.2, why not pay it to my pension instead? It will get us funded quicker, and I’m working on legislation to do that.”

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