Earlier this year, New Jersey did something that hasn’t been done in more than two decades: The state actually made a full payment to its public worker pension fund, totaling almost $7 billion.

Gov. Phil Murphy put in an extra $505 million on top of what would have been a full $6.4 billion payment. But in the coming years, pension contributions will increase because the Garden State’s long-term pension obligation is a staggering $90 billion.

Many current and former politicians have argued the state will never be able to fully fund the state pension system because the issue has been pushed aside for so long. But Dan Cassino, the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, said a new survey done in partnership with AARP finds “73% of New Jersey voters over the age of 50 say that the state should continue making these full pension payments despite how much money it actually winds up costing.”

He said whether people support Phil Murphy or Jack Ciattarelli, a majority favor full payments: “82% of people who are 50 and are supporting Murphy in the gubernatorial election say they should be making the full payments, but 63% of Ciattarelli supporters say we should be doing it as well.”

Cassino said Ciattarelli has gone back and forth on this issue, first declaring the plan should be changed for new workers to a 401k style plan but then he tweeted he would make sure to protect the pensions of police and firefighters before deleting that tweet.

Cassino said the poll also asked respondents about the state’s new retirement savings program, New Jersey Secure Choice. He said the program, which has not received much attention, allows workers in companies with no 401k plans to make a payroll deduction that goes into retirement savings.

Among voters over 50, 82% favor this plan. Of those who favor it, 90% say it should be rolled out quickly.

Cassino said the high level of support for state programs that help secure retirement isn’t surprising because only a third of New Jerseyans 50 and older still working say they’re very confident they will have enough money saved to retire when the time comes.

The poll finds 38% indicate they are very confident they will have enough savings and income to maintain a comfortable retirement.

The survey also finds most Garden State voters 50 and older report low or moderate stress levels, while 25% are in the elevated category.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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