TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced on Monday that both houses of the New Jersey Legislature will officially inform the Court of its disapproval of the Christie Administration’s refusal to make the pension payments required by law. Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto will submit an Amicus Brief in Superior Court stating that the administration is ignoring the law and the legislative intent of the pension reform bill.
Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto issued the following statement:
“We want to make it clear to the Court that the administration’s refusal to make the legally required pension payments violates the law and disregards legislative intent. The pension reform bill approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor is a law he can’t choose to ignore. He has a legal, constitutional and contractual obligation to make the required payments.
“The law explicitly creates a contractual obligation to make the contributions. The Legislature met the requirements of the law by appropriating $2.25 billion to make the payment for Fiscal Year 2015. The governor chose to veto the funding and to slash the contribution by $1.57 billion with a line-item veto.
“By appropriating the full payment, the Legislature met the requirements of the State Constitution. The governor can’t veto the constitution.
“It was the intention of the Legislature to create a contractual obligation on the part of the state to make the annual contributions set out in the law. When the governor signed the reform law, he approved this contractual obligation. Because of the actions of the Legislature and the governor, the members of the pension systems have the right to take action in court to enforce the contractual rights of employees.
“We support the unions in their lawsuit to force the administration to obey the law. The workers are keeping their part of the agreement with increased contributions, the governor should do the same. The continuing refusal by the administration to make the required payments is making the situation worse. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded a record nine times, the state’s fiscal stability has been undermined and members of the pension system are forced to live with the instability of an underfunded plan.
“If the governor had followed the funding timetable as required by the statute, we’d be well on the way to restoring the financial strength of the pension system.”