NEW BRUNSWICK (AP) — A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that retired public workers have a right to cost-of-living increases in their pensions.

But in an opinion Thursday, a three-judge panel leaves it to a lower court judge to decide whether the state had proper justification for suspending those hikes as part of a 2011 pension-system overhaul.

Pension funding for public workers has become a major political and legal issue in New Jersey because of the growing cost to make up for decades of underpayments.

Thursday's ruling follows one by a judge on Wednesday who said public workers have a contractual right to a fully funded pension system. The judge in that case ruled Gov. Chris Christie can reduce the payment due this month because the state is in a legitimate financial bind.

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