NJ Senate leader launches move to force state pension payments

 New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney tells a gathering Thursday that he will push for a constitutional amendment requiring the state to make quarterly public pension payments despite Gov. Chris Christie's strong opposition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney tells a gathering Thursday that he will push for a constitutional amendment requiring the state to make quarterly public pension payments despite Gov. Chris Christie's strong opposition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The leader of New Jersey’s Senate is defending his proposed constitutional amendment that would require the state to contribute every year to the underfunded public employee pension system.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said his proposal to mandate quarterly payments every year to the pension system would prevent the system’s unfunded liability from increasing.

“Thirty years from now, 25 years from now, if we do the right things today, then it won’t be a burden on the people of the state,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

A constitutional mandate is the only way to ensure the state lives up to an agreement to make its full pension payments, he said.

Gov. Chris Christie has blasted the idea.

“This is a $3 billion tax increase on 90 percent of the state to benefit his political patrons who amount to 10 percent of the state,” the governor said.

Sweeney countered that his proposal is just $600 million different than the pension payment plan the governor proposed.

“This isn’t about unions this is about fairness,” he said. “This is about living up to commitments.”

Sweeney believes voters would approve the amendment if it goes on the ballot next year.

“I think the public will go along with the fact that people were made a promise when they started working,” he said. “There was an expectation when you started 30 years ago or 25 years ago that this is what you were going to get when you retired. It’s called fairness.”

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