The New Jersey State Assembly on Monday voted to place a constitutional amendment before voters in November guaranteeing state contributions to the $70.9 billion New Jersey Pension Fund, Trenton, and making sure payments are made quarterly rather than at the end of the year.
The vote passed 50-25 with two abstentions. The state Senate hasn't voted yet. Both houses are controlled by Democrats, and Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, cannot veto a constitutional amendment resolution. Mr. Christie opposes the proposed amendment.
Both chambers approved proposals in the previous legislative session that ended in January, but their votes fell short of the state law allowing an amendment for voter consideration after one-time legislative votes. So, legislators must vote again with simple majorities needed to approve the proposal.
Democratic supporters say the amendment will offer consistency in offering steadily rising state payments to the pension fund and will guard against any governor making last-minute cuts in payment promises.
For fiscal 2014 and 2015, Mr. Christie reduced the promised state contributions, citing the constitutional requirement that the state have a balanced budget each fiscal year. The cuts survived legal challenges. Mr. Christie also made a contribution to the pension fund for the current fiscal year that was less than state law required.
Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment said they acted in response to a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that state payments to the pension fund weren't guaranteed by the state constitution.
Mr. Christie and fellow Republicans said the proposed amendment would force the state to make pension fund contributions regardless of financial events affecting the state, leading to the prospect of significant cuts in other areas or higher taxes in order for the state to meet its constitutional requirement of a balanced budget for each fiscal year.
Separately on Monday, the state Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to prohibit the New Jersey Pension Fund from investing in any company that boycotts, divests from or sanctions Israel or Israeli business, or boycotts companies operating in Israel or Israel-led territory. The prohibitions don’t apply to companies providing “humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people,” the bill said.
The Assembly approved the bill 70-3 with two abstentions. The Senate approved the bill 37-0.
It now goes to Mr. Christie for approval.