Christie pension cuts draw lawsuits; he says there's no Plan B

Posted: June 11, 2014

Two of New Jersey's largest public workers' unions have filed lawsuits to stop Gov. Christie from trying to balance the budget by cutting state pension-system payments, claiming he was violating a 2011 law.

Visiting Camden, Christie warned on Monday that he does not have a Plan B to plug the budget shortfall, "and neither does anyone else."

The 2011 law, enacted early in Christie's first term as governor, required public workers to pay more toward their pension benefits while obligating the state to annually reduce unfunded pension liabilities.

His executive decision to cut pension payments came after revenue estimates turned out to be overly optimistic. For the fiscal year ending June 30, payments into the pension system will be reduced to $696 million from a scheduled $1.58 billion and next year's payments to $681 million from $2.25 billion.

The Republican governor, who had vowed to make pension-system payments as a mark of fiscal responsibility, said new spending needs and revenues that are now estimated to fall $2.75 billion below administration projections for the current fiscal year and next have made the pension cuts necessary.

The spending plan, originally based on $34.4 billion in revenues, now assumes $32.7 billion in revenues.

"Since I've announced what the plan was you have heard nothing from anyone else saying they have a plan," Christie said during an education tour of Camden.

Representatives of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Communication Workers of America (CWA) responded Monday that there were alternatives, and that either way they need to be found.

"This is a law that the governor fought for, advocated for, and signed," said Steve Baker, spokesperson for the NJEA, which announced its suit Friday. "It's such a clear case because of the language of the law. It's pretty eye-opening. I highly recommend that he find a Plan B."

According to Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey director of the CWA, which announced its suit Monday, there were alternative options along the way.

"He's vetoed the millionaire's tax three different times. He gives massive, ridiculous tax breaks to corporations and affords deals for economic development to corporations," Rosenstein said. "All of those things, those are choices that you make."

The CWA suit, filed in Superior Court, is joined by the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, the Fraternal Order of Police, the American Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

NJEA was joined in its suit by AFSCME, the Police Benevolent Association, and others.

The suits, including one filed by state troopers earlier, are scheduled to be heard in Superior Court in Trenton on June 25.


cmindock@phillynews.com(856) 779-3237 @clarkmindock

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