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Senate President Steve Sweeney Threatens to Shut Down Government

Senate President Steve Sweeney got a lot of press for threatening to shut the government down if the state worker’s pension payments were not made.

NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney
State Sen. Pres. Steve Sweeney (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

Since then, Governor Christie is not only making the full payment, he’s also getting sued by the Unions over his payment plan.

The Governor said he plans to take $2.43 billion budgeted for the pension fund during this fiscal year and the next one to balance his budgets. A payment to the pension fund scheduled to be made before June 30 will be reduced from $1.6 billion to $696 million via executive order, Christie said.

The governor also intends to shrink a $2.25 billion payment that was set for the next fiscal year to $681 million. Before he does this, he will seek the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s approval for that move. The new, lower payments he has proposed will cover the cost of employees currently active in the pension system – but will not chip away at the total unfunded liability in the pension fund accrued before he was governor.

In an article on NJ.com Salvatore Rizzo writes:

The stakes are high for Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a union ironworker who insiders say is laying the groundwork to run for governor when Christie leaves. Sweeney had threatened to shut down the government this year if Christie did not make the full pension contribution, but a spokesman last week declined to say that was still an option.

“I have no idea which way this is going to go,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), a veteran lawmaker who is proposing to raise taxes on income above $350,000 and repeal the estate tax this year instead of cutting the pension payment. “I don’t think anyone, Republican or Democrat, wants to shut down the government. That’s no solution.”

So what’s a Senate President to do, especially one who could have his eye on the Governor’s Chair in the next election.

What would you do if you made such a threat and had to decide whether or not to carry it out?

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