Blame game on pension non-payments

TRENTON – While members of the Assembly Budget Committee said payments should be made into the state pension system, and both parties are to blame for not doing so in the past, there was disagreement Tuesday on whether Gov. Chris Christie was doing enough to address the problem.

Declan O’Scanlon, (R-12), of Little Silver, said it was unfair to say the governor was irresponsible for not making a pension contribution last year, saying one would have to go back to the previous decade where payments could have grown, but didn’t because pension contributions weren’t made then.

Christie skipped an estimated $3 billion payment to the state pension fund last year, but has proposed to put $506 million into the fund for fiscal year 2012. Thus far, in his governorship, Christie hasn’t made any payments to the pension fund.

Chairman Louis Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees, stated that former Gov. Jon Corzine was responsible with pension payments, and contributed $2 billion, an amount larger than any contribution made in the 17 years prior.

David Rosen, head of the Office of Legislative Services appearing Tuesday before the committee, said that’s correct.

The importance of making contributions gained steam, in the wake of a positive report by the State Investment Council that showed the pensions grew in value by some 15 percent.

Greenwald reiterated contributions are necessary to see big returns.

“The economy can’t bounce back big enough to  close the hole,” he said. “Future reforms must be tied to future payments.”

Rosen agreed, and said, “It’s unrealistic to assume that market gains will solve (the pension problem).”

Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, (R-25), of Boonton, criticized a measure that would have enabled towns to skip pension payments. He asked Rosen what the impact of that has been.

Rosen didn’t have any information on that. However, Bucco said that now towns are required to make their scheduled payments, they are forced in many cases to cut services, if not lay off workers.

“It all continues to add up,” he said. “That’s why we’re in the position we’re in.” Blame game on pension non-payments