At the end of last week, and without much fanfare, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration deposited $1.307 billion into New Jersey’s public-employee pension system. Even with that state payment, the pension system is still grossly underfunded, but the contribution officially made on June 30 did set a new record for the state. It bested the $1.05 billion payment that then-Gov. Jon Corzine made in 2008, and also beat Christie’s own top pension-payment effort, a $1.03 billion contribution deposited in 2013.
The new state budget enacted by Christie for the fiscal year that began on July 1 also puts the state on course for another record pension contribution. The overall $34.5 billion spending plan calls for the pension payment to increase to $1.86 billion.
But the Christie administration’s payments are still far smaller than the amounts that actuaries have calculated are needed to restore the $71 billion pension system to good health. Democrats who control the state Legislature want to remedy that problem by putting before voters this fall a proposed ballot question seeking to write a schedule of stepped-up pension contributions into the state constitution.
Christie, a Republican, is opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment, saying it could force taxes to go up to fund it. He’s supporting a less-aggressive payment ramp up schedule that’s spelled out in state budget documents.