In a 5-2 ruling, the State Supreme Court sided with Governor Chris Christie today, deciding that the state can move forward with its plan to cut $1.57 billion in public employee pension contributions in order to balance this year’s budget. This reverses a ruling from the lower court, earlier in the year, which said the governor had broken his own 2011 pension law agreement that delivered cuts to health and retirement benefits to state workers and suspend cost of living adjustments, but would fully fund the pension system over a period of several years. The court had given the governor and the Legislature until the end of this month to work on a pension solution.
Today, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the majority opinion … “that the state must get its financial house in order is plain. The need is compelling in respect of the state’s ability to honor its compensation commitment to retired employees. But this Court cannot resolve that need in place of the political branches. They will have to deal with one another to forge a solution to the tenuous financial status of New Jersey’s pension funding in a way that comports with the strictures of our Constitution.”
In a written statement, Governor Christie commented: “This decision is an important victory not only for our taxpayers who simply cannot afford these unsustainably high costs, but for limited, constitutional government that recognizes the proper role of the executive and legislative branches of government. The Court’s position is clear, as is mine, it is time to move forward and work together to find a tangible, long-term solution to make our pension system and public employee health benefit costs affordable and sustainable for generations to come. In light of today’s decision, I urge all interested parties to come back to the table and partner with me to finally solve this problem once and for all.”
Here is a link to the Supreme Court’s decision: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/supreme/A-55-14BurgosvState).pdf