May 8, 2015
By Charles Wowkanech
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our affiliated public employee unions as the fight for state pension funding reached the New Jersey Supreme Court this past Wednesday. The state federation and our affiliates were well represented before the court, as our lawyers argued convincingly that Gov. Christie is obligated to make the full pension payment required by law.
As you may know, Gov. Chris Christie wants to avoid putting nearly $1.6 billion into the pension system this year. The state federation and a dozen public-sector unions sued to stop him from violating the pension reform law he promoted and signed and touted in a cross-country victory lap. The state Senate and Assembly recently joined our lawsuit, and Senate President Stephen was in the courtroom on Wednesday to demonstrate his support for public employees and show that the 2011 reform law is being ignored by the governor.
That law was enacted to restore New Jersey’s pension system to financial health, so that police and firefighters, teachers, and state, county and municipal employees can rest assured that the compensation they defer while in the workforce will be there for them in retirement.Under the reform law, retirees gave up their cost-of-living adjustments, active employees began paying significantly more for their benefits and the state agreed to phase in its pension contribution until reaching full funding in 2018. The Legislature sent the governor a budget that contained full pension funding, but he vetoed it. Everyone except this governor has taken responsibility for fixing the retirement system.
Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge ordered the governor to restore the payment. Now the case is in the hands of the state’s highest court. We look forward to a thoughtful and timely decision from New Jersey’s seven justices.
Meanwhile, we will continue to press for the long-term health of our pension system – and for this governor to live up to his own law by making the full pension payment.
Mr. Wowkanech is the president of the New Jersey AFL-CIO