N.J. Budget Analyst Sees Full Pension Payment Not Doable

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New Jersey, awaiting a court ruling on whether Governor Chris Christie’s $1.6 billion of skipped pension payments is legal, would be hard-pressed to find that money in its budget, said the legislature’s fiscal analyst.

A full pension payment for the fiscal year ending June 30 may not be “physically or fiscally possible,” David Rosen, of the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, said Tuesday at a budget hearing in Trenton.

“There may be some hospital payments that we can hold back; there may be a few contracts that we can delay or get out of,” Rosen said. “I don’t think that, if we could furlough the entire state workforce for the rest of the year, that we’d get enough money.”

Christie, a second-term Republican weighing a run for president, is appealing a judge’s February ruling that said he broke state law by paying just $681 million of the $2.25 billion due to the retirement fund this year. The governor has said he doesn’t have the money to make full payments. His $33.8 billion budget proposal for 2016 would contribute $1.3 billion, less than half the $3.1 billion the state is scheduled to pay.

The governor has called for reductions in pension benefits to control the costs. Democrats, who lead the legislature, have said they won’t agree to cuts until Christie makes full payments.

The pension-ruling appeal is before the state Supreme Court. This late in the fiscal year, all of the municipal aid in the budget has already been paid and all of the school aid will be ‘out the door’ in the next week or two, Rosen said.

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