Sweeney: N.J. vote on pension amendment likely to be delayed

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Phil Gregory for NewsWorks)

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Phil Gregory for NewsWorks)

A proposed constitutional amendment to require the state of New Jersey to make quarterly pension payments seems unlikely to get on the November ballot.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says he won’t put the amendment up for Senate approval by Monday’s deadline unless there’s an agreement on a Transportation Trust Fund plan that would ensure the state has the revenue for mandated pension payments.

“Until we have resolved the Transportation Trust Fund impasse, we can’t in good conscience put a constitutionally guaranteed pension payment on the ballot. It would fail,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney says he’d prefer not to delay getting the amendment on the ballot until next year, but he says there would be no harm in waiting.

“We are making the payment,” Sweeney said. “This year’s budget has $1.9 billion in it. We have the money in the budget. So what I’m saying is what is the issue if we need to get something resolved first in order to make sure I can really fund your pension?”

Sweeney says he’s still one vote short of getting a veto-proof majority for his proposed Trust Fund plan that would raise the gas tax 23 cents and reduce some other taxes.

“I have enough Republicans. I don’t have enough Democrats,” he said. “The Republicans that have supportive in the Senate have been rock solid, but when I’ve made changes to accommodate some Democrat requests, you pick up a Democrat and you lose a Republican.”

Transportation construction projects have been suspended because of the Trust Fund stalemate.

Robert Briant, the CEO of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association, says the impact of the shutdown is getting worse.

“We have hundreds of firms that are starting to close their doors,” Briant said. “Entire field operations shut down, office managers and engineers and estimators are being laid off. Our concrete plants, our asphalt plants, quarries, they’re feeling it. The truckers that are hired, they’re getting laid off.”

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