|New Jersey voters say they would support a constitutional provision to require the state to meet its full public employee pension payment each year. Yet, the Monmouth University Poll also finds when it comes to making a choice between the pension obligation and other key government services, Garden State voters would opt for fully funding those other services over state pensions.
Currently, 71% of registered voters in New Jersey say they would vote for a constitutional amendment that would require the state to always make its full annual payment for state worker pensions. Just 18% say they would oppose it. Support comes from 82% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and 56% of Republicans. The state legislature passed a resolution (SCR184) on the pension obligation question in January. It would need to be passed again in the next few months in order to appear on November’s ballot.
“At first glance there appears to be widespread support for constitutionally guaranteeing that the full pension obligation is met in each annual budget. However, it is not clear that voters really comprehend that approving this measure would mean pension payments would automatically take precedence over funding other key services,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Voters do say that fully meeting the pension obligation would lead to cuts elsewhere. Just over one-third (36%) say that it is very likely and another 39% say it is somewhat likely that other items in the state budget would need to be significantly cut if the state was required to make its full annual pension payment. However, if they had to make the choice between fully funding the pension obligation and fully funding three other services, the pension system comes out on the losing end each time.
Specifically when pitted against fully funding aid to local schools, only 25% would make the full pension payments while 63% would fund the schools. When pitted against fully funding services for the poor, only 28% would make the full pension payments while 58% would fund services for the poor. When pitted against fully funding needed road and bridge repairs, only 30% would make the full pension payments while 59% would fund roads and bridges. These preferences span Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.
“New Jersey voters support the principle of meeting our obligation to public employees, but it is not at all clear they understand how this constitutional amendment would tie Trenton’s hands when it comes to weighing these obligations against other expenditures. And they won’t understand it when they walk into the voting booth, since the wording of the proposed ballot question and interpretive statement says nothing about these probable trade-offs,” said Murray.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with 806 New Jersey adults from May 23 to 27, 2016. This release is based on a sample of 703 registered voters and has a margin of error of + 3.7 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch