Sweeney: N.J. Road Funding Crisis Complicates Public Worker Pension Amendment

Originally appeared in New Jersey Star-Ledger

By Samantha Marcus

July 14, 2016

The stalemate over funding for the Transportation Trust Fund that prompted a weeklong shutdown of construction projects is threatening a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing public worker pension contributions, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Thursday.

The state Legislature is just one voting session from putting a referendum on the fall ballot asking voters to approve the constitutional amendment being sought by public labor unions to obligate the state to higher annual contributions.

The state Assembly passed the measure in late June, but the Senate still must meet an early August deadline to secure it a place on the ballot.

Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who’s championed the amendment and sponsored it in the upper chamber, said it would be irresponsible to bind the state to hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for pensions while the transportation funding crisis is unresolved and the Assembly and Gov. Chris Christie are pushing a plan that would erase billions of dollars in revenue.

“It’s in jeopardy if we can’t fund it,” Sweeney said Thursday, six days into the seven-day construction freeze. “What if I pass the Assembly bill because we get to a point where everything is shut down, everyone is screaming at everybody and the economy is being harmed in a very serious way. Or we even come somewhere close to it? How do I fund the pension at that point?”

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