NJPSA testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee June 6 in support of ACR-109, the proposed constitutional amendment that would require payments into the State-administered retirement systems on a quarterly basis. The amendment would also establish in the Constitution the right of public employees to pension benefit – allowing employees the right to enforce funding obligations and benefit rights. Today’s vote moves the amendment forward so that it can potential be included on November’s ballot for approval by the public.
NJPSA Director of Government Relations Debra Bradley testified before the Committee in concert with other public unions including NJEA, CWA, AFL-CIO, FOP, and the Fireman’s Union. Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and NJBIA testified in opposition to the amendment. The amendment was released by the Committee along party lines (5-2).
The amendment was approved by both houses of Legislature during the prior Legislative session. It needs to be approved by a simple majority by August to put the question on the ballot this November.
The State has underfunded the pension system for decades. Legislation was approved by the Legislature and Governor back in 2011 which required a 7-year ramp up to full payment. Unfortunately that agreement was not lived up to – landing the public unions in Court last year. The Supreme Court would eventually find that absent a constitutional amendment dedicating annual funding the current Legislature could not be forced to make an annual payment.
Democrats on the Committee argue making requiring quarterly payments would be the only way to ensure the pension system is fully funded. But Republicans and pro-business leaders say the proposed mandate would limit flexibility in the state budget.
The proposal must be approved by the full Assembly, as well as the Senate to be placed on the ballot in November.