Prieto Expresses Disappointment That Pension Bill Was Not Posted for Vote

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

Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) supported putting the pension payment question on the ballot.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto issued a statement on Tuesday to express his disappointment that Senate President Steve Sweeney did not post the much-debated pension resolution for a vote. That move by Sweeney has run out the clock on getting the pension amendment on November’s ballot meaning that voters will not have the option to vote on the amendment this year.

“I’m very disappointed that the Senate president did not post for a vote the resolution to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this year to ask voters whether the state should be required to make its annual pension payments. It was time for voters to have their say,” Prieto’s statement read.

The statement continued: “After the 2011 reforms, employees lived up to their obligations, but the administration did not, leading to credit rating downgrades and more distrust in government. That’s why I posted the bill and the Assembly passed the amendment, and it’s why I’m disheartened the question won’t go to the voters this year. Commitments should have been kept.

“The ballot question was the fiscally responsible approach, and I believe voters make wise decisions once they hear all of the arguments. This should have never been linked to the Transportation Trust Fund, and while I am concerned that voters won’t decide whether to mandate guaranteed pension payments, I remain committed to doing everything I can to get New Jersey back on a firm fiscal foundation.”

Prieto also called the senate out for the “lack of progress on resolving the Transportation Trust Fund crisis.” According to the speaker, the assembly is still waiting for the senate to take action on the TTF. In June, Prieto worked with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to forge a TTF deal that would pair a reduced six percent New Jersey sales tax and cuts in other areas with a 23 cent per gallon gas tax hike. However, Sweeney wanted to go with an earlier plan that would phase out the estate tax. While Prieto has looped back to the senate plan, he still said that the recent lack of inaction on the TTF was unacceptable.

“As for the Transportation Trust Fund, no one has made resolving this crisis more of a priority. I was talking about the difficult but necessary need for a gas tax increase before anyone else. Various proposals – including one approved by the Assembly –have failed to advance, and I continue to find this stalemate unacceptable,” Prieto’s statement read.

Prieto said that the TTF issue “must be resolved now” and said statements predicting the TTF funding issue will not be resolved until after the November election were “unproductive.”

“It’s time for the governor and the legislative leaders from both parties to sit together in the same room to finally once and for all resolve this crisis. People’s livelihoods and New Jersey’s economy are at risk, and the fact that this state has gone into mid-August without a transportation funding plan is appalling,” Prieto said.