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N.J. lawmakers warn of 'draconian' budget cuts after judge's pension decision

Friday, February 27, 2015   (0 Comments)
Share | 02/24/15

New Jersey lawmakers warned of potential "draconian" budget cuts to come up with $1.57 billion if the state is forced to make a full pension payment this year. "The impact on programs at the end of the year would be devastating," state Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said. But Greenwald said there could be a solution on the horizon. He said public workers unions had "come to the table with real suggestion and real reform to try to create a pension payment and longevity that is sustainable and reliable and predictable." "The reality is we have to either make draconian cuts and make the payment," Greenwald said. "Or we have to be doing what we have been doing over the course of the last number of months, which is work hand-in-hand with the people that are most dramatically impacted by the pension, which is the public workers. It's their retirement."

Most legislators had an opinion as to who was at fault for the predicament, and most said they weren't surprised by the ruling. But none had any idea where the exactly the money will come from if Christie doesn't win an expected appeal. Democrats, for their part, said we wouldn't have faced this crunch had Christie signed a budget they sought that would have made the payment. Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said Christie created the problem with his "duplicitous assessment of how to handle our pension obligations," which included touting his 2011 overhaul of the pension system and telling workers that it saved their pensions, and then arguing in court that his own law was unconstitutional.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), however, said it's up to the Legislature to figure out what to cut now. "All budgets are prepared by the legislature," he said. "So the court is saying to the legislature you have to put this much money in the pension fund. So I'm assuming the governor will ask the legislature to come up with the program cuts that would be needed to find $1.6 billion." Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris), a member of the budget committee, said the payment Judge Jacobson ordered is about 5 percent of the budget.

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