N.J. will meet budget deadline despite pension lawsuit, Assembly leader says

Despite an ongoing lawsuit over Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to skip a required payment to New Jersey’s pension fund, state lawmakers are planning to have a new state budget enacted by the end of the month.

Legal arguments won’t be held until next Wednesday on the lawsuit file by unions representing teachers, state troopers and public employees to prevent Christie from reducing the state’s contribution into the public employees pension plan. Christie says the state just can’t afford to pay the full bill.

The court hearing is just five days before the budget deadline.

Lawmakers are working on getting a new budget in place without knowing what the judge will decide, said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, D-Hudson.

“We have to move forward and plan for what fiscal year ’15’s budget is going to be, and we¹re looking at every angle that we can,” he said.

Lawmakers are still trying to figure out where to get the money to fully fund the pension contributions, Prieto said.

Christie has said state government will not shut down no matter how the judge rules.

Meanwhile, the trustee board that oversees New Jersey’s public employee pension fund plans to hire its own lawyer to try to force the governor to make the payment.

The Public Employees Retirement System trustees voted 6-0 on Wednesday to file suit after more than 10,000 PERS members sent letters to the trustees urging them to take action.

The trustees say they were given more legal rights under a 2011 pension reform law that significantly raised workers’ share of benefits costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.