Assembly Approves Pension Funding Amendment

Democrats like Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) are betting on voters to approve constitutionally required pension payments

Democrats like Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) are betting on voters to approve constitutionally required pension payments

TRENTON- The constitutional amendment requiring quarterly pension payments to public employees (ACR109) was passed by the New Jersey Assembly on Monday.

ACR109 received 50 ‘yes’ votes, 25 ‘no’ votes and 2 abstentions.

The amendment was Democratic initiative. According to Speaker Vincent Prieto, one of the primary sponsors, the move is a necessary one.

“For many years we have neglected to pay into our pension and that has caused the state to get downgraded credit ratings,” Prieto said. “We cannot afford to do that.”

While Democrats were sharply in favor of the bill, assembly Republicans were largely opposed.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon spoke before the vote to share his concerns.

“I am someone who believes we must keep our commitments to our public workers,” O’Scanlon said. “But, this piece of legislation is one of the most ill-advised. This constitutional amendment makes the same mistakes [as 2011], but it doubles down.”

According to assembly minority leader Jon Bramnick the amendment takes away an important aspect of the lawmaking process: flexibility. Bramnick said he believes there is a better way to approach the pension issue than creating a constitutional amendment because the constitution is “not a flexible document.”

“The constitution is the founding document of this state, it is not a budget document,” said Bramnick. The minority leader said he wants to approach the pension in such a way that it does not limit what future legislators can do.

The amendment is also on the agenda for the New Jersey state senate this week. If approved by both houses, it will be placed on the ballot in November and voters will decide if the changes to pension payments will be enacted.

The amendment would require that the state makes at least 25 percent contribution to the public pension systems by August 1, at least 50 percent by November 1, at least 75 percent by February 1 and at least 100 percent by May 1. Full payments would be required by July 1, 2021.