O’Scanlon Accuses Dems of Fast-Tracking Pension Bill

Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon calls committee process undemocratic

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon is calling the committee process beind state Democrats’ penion payment bill undemocratic

After a bill to require the state to make quarterly pension payments advanced in committee Monday, one Republican legislator is calling the process unfair. Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), Republican budget officer and a longtime critic of the Democratic-led effort to mandate those payments, said he and others were denied the opportunity to testify as the bill went to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

McKeon said that he would not allow O’Scanlon to voice his objections to the bill during the public hearing because lawmakers have had many chances to criticize the effort. In a statement later that afternoon, O’Scanlon called the hearing undemocratic.

“We have representative government for a reason,” O’Scanlon wrote. “The public counts on us to thoroughly debate policy before dumping it in their laps. When we pass something like a constitutional amendment it sends the message that we have thoroughly vetted and endorse the policy. That hasn’t happened here. By stifling debate in committee we are abdicating our responsibility as a legislative body. It’s shocking.”

This was a shameless attempt to stifle any criticism of their plan, which could go down in history as the single most ill-advised and destructive action in the history of the state Legislature.”

New Jersey currently owes $43.8 billion to its public pension fund. If the Democratic-led effort to amend the state constitution through a ballot question and require that the state pay $5 billion by 2021 succeeds, O’Scanlon argued the state will be hard pressed to fund anything else.

“Not only would vital state services be cut, but it would require massive cuts to critical services like education and municipal aid. The impact here goes beyond the state budget.  If this ill-advised amendment goes into effect it will dramatically impact property taxes as well.”

“Insolvency would be almost inevitable,” he continued.

For their part, Assembly Democrats are calling the measure an attempt to correct course after years of letting the pension fund go by the wayside. Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) characterized the effort as “re-establishing financial stability and long-term solvency.”

The ballot question is expected to have a healthy margin of public support if the legislature passes it in a second consecutive session and gets it on the ballot in the fall, with one poll showing the roughly 70 percent would approve it.