Pension payments – NJ ranks last, report says
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A report showing New Jersey's poor track record at paying into its public pension system has come out just as Gov. Chris Christie navigates his latest proposal through a hostile Legislature to scale back a promised payment.
The new study from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators and sponsored by AARP shows that from 2001 to 2013 New Jersey ranked last among states for making payments into its public pensions. It shows New Jersey made 38 percent of the annually required contribution during that time period, far below the median of 95 percent.
Christie, who is considering a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, wants Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature to agree to a $1.3 billion payment into public pensions -- almost half what he and lawmakers agreed to in 2011. Democrats have balked at the offer, saying the governor should keep his promise.
The report's authors, Keith Brainard and Alex Brown, compiled state financial records from 112 different plans.
Brainard said the data shows that New Jersey lives up to its reputation for a poorly managed system. But he said the report could bolster both Christie, who says the system needs to be overhauled, and his opponents, who want Christie to make bigger payments.
"We worked hard to stick to the facts in this report," he said. "I think either or both sides of the argument there could find information to support their view."
News of the study was first reported by Reuters.
The fight over pensions reaches back to Christie's first term when he and Democrats agreed to a deal that called for beneficiaries to pay more into the fund but also for the state to make increased payments. Christie cut those payments last year based on state receipts that fell below projections. The move angered Democrats and resulted in a lawsuit from unions.
A Superior Court judge recently ruled in favor of unions, saying Christie and legislator have to work to pay almost $1.6 billion into the fund. Christie is appealing the ruling. Democrats and unions say they want him to make the payment.
Christie has argued he has paid more into public pensions than previous governors combined and says he has worked with the state's largest teachers union to create a roadmap for the indebted fund.
In a sign of the strained relations between the governor and the union, the New Jersey Education Association is party to a new lawsuit seeking pension payments.
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