Voters divided over hot-button NJ issues, according to poll
Rutgers-Eagleton is out with a series of new polls that examines public opinion on pension payments and minimum wage as the battle over the two issues heats up in Trenton.
"New Jersey voters are actually pretty much on the side of Democratic leaders in the State Legislature right now on both of these issues," said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.
Voters are in more favor to the proposed constitutional amendment that would require the state to make yearly payments to the pension fund.
"Forty-nine percent say they would support a constitutional amendment, while 40 percent say they would oppose it, and 11 percent say that they're just not sure yet," Koning said. "Support doesn't really reach majority here when we're discussing pension payments, mostly likely because of providing details of both sides and the pros and cons of what a constitutional amendment would mean."
But, the devil is in the details. Voters change their tune a bit if the pension payments mean higher taxes or making cuts elsewhere in the budget: 77 percent oppose higher taxes, 54 percent against the service cuts.
"That's especially when New Jersey voters start to second-guess their support," Koning said.
Meanwhile, 62 percent would prefer state workers contribute more toward their own pensions, while 68 percent wish to see cost-saving reforms to health benefits, something that was recommended by a recent Gov. Chris Christie panel.
Voters would, though, favor a millionaire's tax hike to fund the pension payments.
"New Jerseyans are definitely for paying for these regular payments through, perhaps, increasing a tax on those making over a million dollars annually," she said. "Voters are more likely than not to favor mandated pension payments, but they do not want to pay for it themselves."
However, a proposal introduced by Democratic leaders to raise the minimum wage gets much more support than the pension payment amendment. The plan from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Hudson) phases in a $15-an-hour wage over the next few years.
"Seventy-three percent support a wage increase that would immediately take the wage up to $10.10 an hour, followed by gradual increases, " Koning said. "Twenty-five percent oppose."
Koning believes the support for the minimum wage hike is strong because voters were explicitly told it would be gradual.