As reported by NJ.com, Senate leaders have spent weeks trying to build a supermajority to override Governor Chris Christie’s opposition to a Transportation Trust Fund tax package, a plan that also holds the fate of a voter referendum on public worker pensions. And for the last week, they’ve said they’re within a vote or two of clinching the veto-proof majority. However, Monday is the final deadline for the state Senate to act to place the referendum on the November ballot.
As recently as Thursday, Senate President Stephen Sweeney signaled that putting the referendum to voters this fall was a long shot, because the uncertainty of the Transportation Trust Fund fix posed a risk to funding and passing the pension amendment, which would require the State to gradually increase payments into the public pension system. Public labor unions have objected to Sweeney’s refusal to put the referendum to a vote. It already passed in the Assembly. Workers rallied out the Statehouse and outside the Senate President’s South Jersey legislative office last week. They booed when he adjourned last Monday’s Senate session without posting the legislation.
“The fact that Senate President Sweeney-at the 11th hour-will not post it for a vote is the exact reason we’re demanding a constitutional amendment,” Hetty Rosenstein, state director of the Communications Workers of America, said last week. “There is no reason the pension should be a casualty of the Legislature’s inability to secure votes for the Transportation Trust Fund. But every time there is some other political or economic issue, the pension is traded for it.”
The amendment was sought by labor leaders and pushed by Sweeney to combat years of underfunding and to replace a guarantee workers thought they’d secured under a 2011 pension law that was later invalidated by the State Supreme Court. The pension, fund, which supports the retirement of 800,000 active and retired workers, is short $43.8 billion what it would cost to pay for future benefits.
Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain updates regarding any action and/or inaction regarding the public worker pension amendment.