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Judges’ Pension Payments Should Be Decided By Residents, Lawmakers Say

Assemblywomen Amy Handlin and Caroline Casagrande have reintroduced a bill that would allow voters to determine whether New Jersey’s Constitution should be amended to clarify that the Legislature does have the authority to include judges in the pension and healthcare law enacted last year. The move comes as New Jersey’s Supreme Court gets set to decide whether judges are required to increase their contributions to their pension and healthcare benefits.

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The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider identical legislation this Thursday.  Handlin and Casagrande originally introduced their bill last November, but it was never heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. They’re urging that their newly introduced resolution get consideration as quickly as possible.

“The voters should be able to decide whether judges should be included in the new pension reform law that was enacted last year,” says Handlin, who is a Deputy Republican Leader. “This determination should not be made by those with a vested interest.”

Handlin and Casagrande say the average salary for a judge is $166,000 per year, and they currently contribute 3 percent of their salaries toward a pension which averages $107,000 annually upon retirement. The average lifetime payout for a retired judge is approximately $2.3 million in benefits, while their average lifetime contribution is only $59,300.

Casagrande says, “This is the appropriate time for the Assembly to discuss the same bill which is being considered this week by a Senate committee. The clock is ticking on the proscribed timetable for putting this question before the voters this fall. Allowing them to decide this issue removes the inherent conflict of interest which any state court would have.”

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