Voters may not understand consequences of forcing N.J. payments to state pension system

A Monmouth University poll indicates New Jersey voters don't quite get what the consequences would be if the state were forced to make contributions to the state workers pension systems. (AP photo/Mel Evans

A Monmouth University poll indicates New Jersey voters don't quite get what the consequences would be if the state were forced to make contributions to the state workers pension systems. (AP photo/Mel Evans

A Monmouth University poll finds that New Jersey voters might not understand all the ramifications of a proposed constitutional amendment that would force the state to make its full annual payment into the public employee pension systems.

About 70 percent of registered voters say they’d vote for the amendment while 18 percent oppose it.

But poll director Patrick Murray said it’s not clear whether voters comprehend that mandating the pension obligation would make those contributions a priority over other spending.

“If it comes down to a choice between pensions and a whole host of other issues — like funding education, funding roads and bridges, funding service for the poor — by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, New Jerseyans say, ‘Well, wait, we’ve got to fund those before the pensions.'”

The proposed ballot question and interpretative statement say nothing about those potential trade-offs, Murray said.

“There’s a split here in what the public thinks,” he said. “They’re going to vote for the obligation as it stands right now without really understanding that means it takes away the Legislature’s ability to fund those other issues potentially.”

The Legislature will have to act on that constitutional amendment within the next few months to get it on the November ballot.

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