Guaranteed Funding For State Pensions Probably Won’t Make Ballot
Originally appeared in: NJ Spotlight
By: John Reitmeyer
August 5, 2016
Sweeney continues to tie the amendment to getting a veto-proof majority for his plan to renew the Transportation Trust Fund
With the deadline for final legislative approval of a proposed constitutional amendment to boost public-employee pension funding now just days away, it appears more likely than ever that it will not be put before voters this fall.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) continues to say he won’t allow the issue to go on the ballot if the state can’t afford to make the series of ramped-up pension contributions the amendment calls for. With Democrats still at odds with Gov. Chris Christie over renewing the state Transportation Trust Fund, that remains an open question.
Funding the pension system and paying for transportation projects seem to be completely unrelated issues, and many have been confused that they’re now linked so closely together, especially as an Aug. 8 deadline for approving ballot questions has drawn so close. But years of only modest state revenue growth and Christie’s insistence that a significant tax cut has to be part of any deal to renew the TTF has now effectively put public workers and transportation advocates in a battle for the same limited budget resources.
Advocates for the disabled, seniors, and others who rely on state-funded safety net programs were among those who came to the State House yesterday to support Sweeney and to call for a resolution to the TTF impasse that doesn’t destroy the state budget. But leaders of public-worker unions, still smarting from bribery accusations that Sweeney leveled at them earlier in the week, countered by openly questioning his commitment to fixing a pension system that is at least $44 billion in debt after years of underfunding.