N.J. top court backs Chrisitie on suspending retirees’ cost-of-living increases

The New Jersey  Supreme Court has upheld cuts made in 2011 by Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature to freeze public pensioners' cost-of-living payments. The governor calls the decision released Thursday a

The New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld cuts made in 2011 by Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature to freeze public pensioners' cost-of-living payments. The governor calls the decision released Thursday a "major victory" for state taxpayers. (AP file photo)

In a decision that’s disappointing unions, the New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld a law that freezes cost of living adjustments for retired government workers.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said it was necessary for Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers to suspend the increases known as COLAs as part of the pension changes enacted in 2011.

“We have some pension funds that were funded at 53 percent at the time or 56 at the time. Now they’re down to 48,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “If you add the COLA to it, you might as well just end the pensions.”

Unions are disappointed with the court’s decision.

Patrick Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said living on a fixed income is already hard for retirees.

“We have guys that are likely — if they’re not on them already — looking at food stamps and public assistance,” he said Thursday. “And that’s not what should happen after 25 or 30 years of service being a police officer and protecting the citizens of New Jersey.”

Freezing the increases retirees were promised as part of their compensation amounts to theft, said New Jersey Education Association president Wendell Steinhauer.

“The price of gas goes up, the price of food goes up, and they’re going to get exactly the same thing for years and years without any cost of living adjustment,” he said. “So it’s going to create a tremendous hardship on our seniors.”

Steinhauer said the ruling reinforces the need for voters to approve a constitutional amendment requiring the state to make regular payments into the pension system.

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