As reported by nj.com, New Jersey voters will get the last word on whether state judges can be forced to pay more for their pensions and health care. A question on the November 6th ballot asks voters to amend the state constitution to allow a 2011 law to be applied to judges and
As reported by nj.com, a divided State Supreme Court said judges and justices don’t have to chip in more for their pension and health benefits like other state workers because New Jersey’s Constitution prevents them from having their pay cut. The 3-2 decision drew swift responses from the leaders of New Jersey’s two other branches of government, which last year enacted a law requiring higher contributions from state workers.
Governor Chris Christie called it a case of “liberal activist judges running amok” while Democrats who run the state Legislature said they may ask voters to change the state constitution to force judges to pay more. The state’s bar association, however, called it a win for judicial independence, saying judges “will remain free from political retaliation when judges make an unpopular but just decision.”
The highly anticipated decision, which affects most of the more than 375 Superior Court judges and Supreme Court justices who were on the bench when the law went into effect, strikes at a key component of Christie’s effort to trim spending on employee salaries and benefits and stabilize pension plans.
The Court said making judges contribute more for their benefits constitutes a pay cut, and that the state Constitution forbids the other branches from reducing judges’ salaries to make sure they are not punished for making unpopular decisions. “Whatever good motivation the Legislature may have had when enacting (the law) with its broad application to all state public employees, the framers’ message is clear,” the Court said. “The constitution forbids the reduction of a justice or judge’s take-home salary during the term of his or her appointment.”
Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale brought the challenge, saying his pension and health contributions would increase by more than five times after a seven-year phase in. The State argued health benefits and pensions are part of a total compensation package and should not be considered as salary. But the majority of the justices said the terms “salary” and “compensation” were used interchangeably by the framers of the state Constitution and every time lawmakers imposed pension requirements on judges, it included a corresponding pay raise.
As reported by nj.com, public pension funds may have gotten a much-needed boost from Governor Chris Christie’s landmark overhaul last year, but reports released show the funds continue to be hampered by the State’s failure to make full payments into the plans.
Christie and Democratic leaders joined together last year and shifted …
As reported by nj.com, Democratic leaders met with union officials and sources say the topic was overhauling health benefits. Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver met with the heads of the biggest public employee unions: Communications Workers of America, America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, International …