Today, February 25, 2014, Governor Chris Christie is set to propose a new state budget. In a press release yesterday, State Democrats warned the Governor that he shouldn’t expect support for a proposed tax cut.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) also repeated that the spending plan needs to include the full promised payment to the public employee pension system.
As reported on, a recent report by financial analysts in the state Legislature showed there is an estimated $565 million shortfall in the current budget.
Christie has sought tax cuts for several years, but when asked about it Monday, Sweeney was blunt: “You’ve got to be kidding me right now.”
Sweeney stressed again Monday he won’t back a budget that does not include a full payment to the pension fund. “We’re going to have this pension payment funded, or we won’t pass a budget,” he said. “We made a promise, and that’s a promise I can’t break.”
In 2011, Christie worked with Democrats to enact a major overhaul to the pension program, requiring both employee concessions and the state’s commitment to increase payments every year. It’s set to increase from $1.7 billion to $2.4 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.
In his State of the State address last month, Christie said he and lawmakers “need to have the conversation now about further changes to our pension system and about adding further to our state’s already burdened debt load.”
Sweeney responded by threatening to shut down the state government if the payment is not made.
During his radio show earlier this month, Christie said he intends to make the payment and never meant to imply he wouldn’t. He said other programs would be at risk “if we don’t address the exploding costs of pension payments and debt service …We will work with the actuaries to make the appropriate payment.”
Despite the recent statements made by the Governor, Sweeney said Monday he’s concerned by Christie’s use of the word “appropriate.”
It appears from yesterday’s press release that the New Jersey Democrats are going to hold the Governor’s feet to the fire to ensure that the payment needed to fully fund the pension system is made for the up and coming fiscal year. Despite the fact that it is a little too late, it is good to see the Democratic Party is again acting responsibly in an effort to ensure that the Public Employment Pension system for the State of New Jersey remains viable.