Police unions sue over N.J. pension payment cut

Posted: June 07, 2014

TRENTON - Three New Jersey police unions are challenging Gov. Christie in court over his decision last month to cut New Jersey's payment to its pension system, an action he said was needed to plug a $1 billion revenue shortfall for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The unions - which include the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association of New Jersey, and State Troopers Superior Officers Association of New Jersey - say the administration violated a 2010 law that requires the state to contribute more money to public-employee pensions.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Superior Court, contends that the state has breached its contract with public employees. It seeks an injunction requiring the state to make the full payment and a judgment declaring that a refusal to make that contribution is unlawful. "We will address the claims in court as necessary," said the governor's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, who also referenced the governor's comments last month.

At a May 21 news conference, Christie said, "I believe this is not only the best but the only decision we're left with to deal with the magnitude of the problem that we have, and so if they want to go to court, that's perfectly well within their rights."

The administration has until June 25 to appear in court and show cause. The suit names Christie, Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, and the Legislature as defendants.

In May, Christie signed an executive order reducing the payment for the current fiscal year from $1.58 billion to $696 million, saying he did not want to raise taxes or cut services. The shortfall caught state budget forecasters by surprise, as April income tax receipts came in significantly lower than expected.

Laws passed in Christie's first term required public employees to contribute more toward their pensions, while the state was to increase its payments, too. The pension system has been underfunded for years.

Also on Thursday, the trustees of the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund declined to pass a motion seeking independent counsel in response to Christie's decision, to the chagrin of teachers.

Separately, the New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers, has said it would sue the administration, as have other unions.


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846 @AndrewSeidman

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