Monday, May 4, 2015

Christie set to argue his pension law is unconstitutional

Christie set to argue his pension law is unconstitutional

When Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) takes his case to the state Supreme Court this week in a dispute over pension funding, his administration will make a highly unusual argument: that a law the governor signed in 2011 is unconstitutional.

Legal experts say it's a rare approach, perhaps unprecedented in New Jersey.

Lawmakers are closely watching how the Supreme Court will rule; its decision could have significant ramifications for the state budget, for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and for the next.

The law required public workers to contribute more toward their pensions and health plans, raised the retirement age, and suspended cost-of-living adjustments. In return for those concessions, workers were granted a "contractual right" to greater pension funding, which the state was to phase in over seven years.

Unions sued in June after Christie cut the state's pension contribution for the current fiscal year by $1.57 billion amid a revenue shortfall.

"Here's the governor signing a law binding himself and the government to a contract and quite soon thereafter arguing that it's unconstitutional," said Robert F. Williams, a state constitutional law expert at Rutgers-Camden. "I don't think we have much precedent for this, particularly in this context - maybe no precedent."


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