As reported by nj.com, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a measure that would let voters decide if judges should pay more for health and pension benefits.
The committee had planned to delay acting on the measure until the state Supreme Court rules on the matter, which is expected soon. Instead, the full Senate will wait to vote until the court decision comes down. The committee voted 12-0 with one abstention to approve the resolution, which would have to be approved by the full Senate and Assembly and then voters in November as a constitutional amendment.
Governor Christie last year signed legislation requiring state employees, including judges, contribute more of their salaries to their pension and health benefits plans. In August, Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale sued, claiming the State Constitution prohibits their salaries from being “diminished.” The provision was designed to prevent judges and justices from being influenced or punished by the Legislature or the Governor for unpopular or controversial decisions.
In continued criticism of the Court, Christie has called judges “elitist” and said they should pay their fair share of their contributions. In September, a Superior Court judge ruled the increased contributions are unconstitutional because they were salary reductions and she ordered the judges’ only installment that had been taken from their paycheck to be returned to them.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in March. A decision is expected this summer. The State contends the increased contributions are not a salary reduction.