According to a Monmouth University Poll put forth earlier this week, New Jersey voters say they would support a constitutional provision to require the state to meet its full public employee pension payment each year. But, when faced with ‘Hobson’s Choice’ of competing key government services respondents voiced concern.
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.
But, when poll participants were asked to decide between the pension payments and other state priorities, the support did wane some. Three fourths of the voters acknowledged the pension amendment could force significant cuts to other parts of the budget, with 36 percent saying it was “very likely” and 39 percent saying it was “somewhat likely” that would occur. It was only when forced to decide between specific spending items and the pension payments that support for the amendment began to slip.
Asked to choose between the full pension payment and providing aid to local schools, just 25 percent said they would make the pension payment while 63 percent said they would want to ensure stable funding to the schools. Left to choose between fully funding social service programs and the pension payment, and 28 percent say they’d back the amendment. Pay for repairs to roads and bridges or make the payment? Support comes in at 30 percent.
“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,” Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray said. “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.”
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, NJ
The State Legislature approved an amendment via resolution last session that would make it a constitutional obligation to make quarterly payments into the pension fund. The amendment has to be approved in two subsequent legislative sessions to have it put on the ballot in November for review and approval by the voters. 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. Earlier this week the Assembly Judiciary Committee began the process for approval in this legislative session (.