N.J. Senate president, Christie move closer to accord on pension contributions

 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, and New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Thorofeare, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo, file)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, and New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Thorofeare, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo, file)

The top Democrat in the New Jersey Legislature said that he’s encouraged by Gov. Chris Christie’s latest comments on state pension payments.

But State Senate President Steve Sweeney still has some reservations.

Christie said his administration will work with actuaries to make appropriate payments to the underfunded state pension system.

The appropriate amount, Sweeney said, is what lawmakers agreed on when crafting reform measures several years ago that include gradually increasing payments over a seven-year period.

“Listening to what I heard, he’s giving himself room to reduce the contribution this year,” Sweeney said. “Hopefully, I’m reading it wrong and maybe I’m being too skeptical. So as long as we’re making the appropriate payment, not an adjusted one, I’m fine.”

Christie said remarks he made in his State of the State address last month about the high pension costs the state faces were intended to open a dialogue on potential future changes in the program.

While Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he’s willing to meet with unions to discuss how to restore the pension system to financial health, he said that should be done through contract negotiations not more legislation.

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