Last week, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled that increasing judges’ pension contributions by 9 percent violates the State Constitution because it effectively reduces their salaries.

Governor Chris Christie is not content waiting for a ruling in the appeal. Also yesterday, he held a campaign event in Trenton with more than 50 Republican lawmakers standing behind him to show that the GOP is united in supporting a constitutional amendment forcing judges to pay more for retirement benefits.

Christie pointed out that the average judge now pays just $59,300 into the pension fund but withdraws $2.3 million in benefits over their lifetime and they can collect pensions equaling 75 percent of their salary after 10 years on the bench.

“We’re asking the people who are paid the most to pay the most,” explains Christie. “They (judges) are public servants. They are not kings and queens in black robes……I want the judiciary to be independent, I just don’t want them to be part of an elite special class of citizens who get better benefits at a lower cost than everybody else in the state, and do that at the expense of the taxpayers.”

Christie added, “Republicans and Democrats worked incredibly hard to pass long overdue pension and health benefit reforms only to have one self serving judge create a special loophole. A half a million public employees are contributing more towards their health and pension benefits and judges should not be treated any differently…… Every Democrat in the Legislature and every Democratic legislative candidate should have to answer that question now — where do they stand on the issue. Do not hide behind, `well, we’ll wait to see what the courts decide.’ We’ll wait to see what the courts decide too. But what is the answer going to be if the courts decide to support this self- interested opinion?”

Democrats Sound Off

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver says, “It’s just terrible that Gov. Christie has chosen to stomp his feet and play politics instead of focusing his attention on protecting taxpayers by overturning this ruling, which would be the quickest and best way to resolve this problem. Taxpayers are sick and tired of awful political theater like this, especially while they continue to suffer from Gov. Christie’s property tax hikes and his continued failure to improve the economy.”

“Whether I agree or disagree with the decision, the judicial process must be respected. Changing the Constitution based on one decision may not be warranted,” says Democratic State Senator Steve Sweeney. “I will let the Appellate and Supreme Courts have their review of this matter, which they will hopefully do soon. After the appeals process has been completed, the Legislature will then determine the appropriate reaction…if any.”

A spokesman for Oliver added that the Speaker’s belief is that there are other mechanisms available to all concerned to address this – beginning with the Governor sitting down with the legislature and the judiciary in a collaborative way, should his pursuit of the matter through the courts fail.

Video by Dino Flammia

Assembly GOP Leader Alex DeCroce says, “Their (judges) elitist attitude is to insult the working middle class of public employees who know pay their own health care and benefits…..If requiring judges to increase what they pay for in their benefits is somehow a constitutional matter let’s see if the people want to change the constitution.”

“We call on the higher courts certainly to overturn this ruling,” says Republican Assemblyman Vince Polistina. “It’s not fair for them to create a certain group of citizens. We think the decision should be overturned.”