As reported by NJ.com, a group of unions representing New Jersey State Troopers are the first to sue Governor Chris Christie to force him to make a larger payment to the State’s public-worker pension system in his latest state budget proposal. Christie’s proposed budget, which covers the fiscal year that begins in July, includes a $1.3 billion pension payment that is nearly two times the size of this year’s contribution, though still far below what he agreed to under a 2011 pension overhaul he signed into law.
The State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, the State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association, and the State Troopers Superior Officers Association filed a lawsuit in State Superior Court in Trenton this week saying Christie is breaking that 2011 law by not making the full payment. “The foregoing situation constitutes a real, present, and imminent danger that the defendants are about to violate,” the lawsuit says. “Any failure to fund the pension trust has a ripple effect into the future.” A dozen other public-worker unions said earlier this week they plan to file similar lawsuits.
The pension crisis is arguably the biggest issue in Trenton, and one that threatens to complicate Christie’s possible campaign for the 2016 Republican nominati0n for president. A State Superior Court Judge ruled last month that Christie broke the 2011 law when he slashed $1.5 billion from the pension payment in the current state budget. Judge Mary Jacobson also ordered that he and the State Legislature work together to make up the money, though the Governor is expected to appeal.
New Jersey’s governors have short-changed the pension system for two decades in an effort to balance state budgets. That has left an $83 billion unfunded pension liability. Saying he didn’t have a choice, Christie cut a combined $2.4 billion in pension payments from the 2014 and 2015 budgets after his office’s revenue projections fell far short. He said he hired a special commission to suggest new reforms because the 2011 overhaul didn’t go far enough. Union members and Democratic lawmakers have said they are unlikely to go along with Christie’s new plan until he makes the full payments.