Today, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the resolution that will put pension funding on the November 2016 ballot for all NJ voters. The Committee's vote today is an important next step to moving the resolution to a full Assembly vote, followed by action in the Senate. 

Local 1036 thanks the resolution's sponsors and the members of the Committee voting in favor. ACR-109 was passed out of Committee along party lines with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against.

The Resolution asks voters to amend the NJ Constitution to require the state to make its full required pension payments, on a quarterly basis. Making quarterly payments will benefit from investment returns to further build up the health of our pension funds and will enforce fiscal responsibility during the year. 

Read more at NJ.com

CWA 1036 monitors and lobbies on several legislative bills that affect our membership. Below are a few key pieces of legislation that are active right now.

 

Constitutional Amendment Requiring Full Pension Funding (SCR-184/ACR-3)

 

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The NJ Senate has posted Senate Concurrent Resolution S-184, proposing a constitutional amendment to obligate the State to make the required annual contribution into public sector pension plans.  The bill would bind the legislature to phase in the full payment of the annual contribution by 2021 and require the state to make the payments on a quarterly basis.

Quarterly payments would save the state millions every year on the annual required contribution, and would boost the health of the pension fund because investment earnings would be accrued on the payments throughout the fiscal year, instead of one lump payment at the very end of the year. 

If passed this time, and then again in 2016, the pension funding and quarterly payments would be put on the ballot on Election Day, November 2016. If passed by the voters, it would amend the NJ Constitution and remedy the decision of the NJ Supreme Court. 

The resolution has been posted for vote in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday, December 10th at 1pm.  The committee hearing will be held in the State House Annex, 1st Floor, Committee Room 4.  The Local will join forces with the rest of CWA, the NJ AFL-CIO and other public sector unions to voice strong support and urge passage of this resolution out of committee. We also thank Senate President Stephen Sweeney for his leadership to post this bill. 

Stay tuned.  We will be in touch later this week with an update on next steps, including passage in the Assembly.  

Read more coverage here.

On Monday, February 23rd, Judge Mary Jacobson released her decision on the lawsuit brought by CWA and others challenging Governor Christie’s failure to make the full pension contribution required under the law commonly called “chapter 78."

The ruling agreed with our challenge in full and orders the Governor to work with the Legislature to restore the full pension payment for FY15, which ends June 30, 2015.

This is obviously a huge, groundbreaking step towards reversing the Governor’s actions to deliberately underfund the system and renege on a law he signed just over three years ago, touting it as a signature accomplishment. In court last month, he argued it was unconstitutional and did not bind him at all. Today, the Court stated clearly that the law requires a full annual contribution, and anything less violates our members’ Constitutional and contractual rights. 

From the decision: The court cannot allow the State to simply turn its back on its obligations to New Jersey's public employees -- especially in light of the fact that the State's failure to make its full payment constitutes a substantial blow to the solvency of the pension funds in violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights, and due to the fact that the terms of the UAAL (unfunded liability) payments were set forth -- and even public endorsed -- by the Governor himself. 

While we can celebrate this important victory, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us:

  • We are confident the State will appeal this decision.
  • We are confident the Governor will attack this decision in his budget speech today on 2/24. He will call for a new round of pension and benefits reform and will try to portray the pension crisis as strangling the entire state budget. He will play the same “public employees vs. NJ citizens” tune, eventhough his own actions deepened the crisis and have delayed a remedy this year.
  • We know the Governor will attack this decision in the media and at town hall meetings with his usual captive audiences and TV cameras. He already called this decision “liberal judicial activism” to play for the national media.
  • We know the NJ Legislature now has the challenge to live up to the Court decision and find a way to restore funding to a pension contribution. Some have already said there will have to be budget cuts to fund the increased pension payment.
  • We know the Governor’s hand-picked “Task Force” will release its report very soon pushing for “reforms” of pension and health benefits. This report was due in October, but the Governor has been holding it, possibly as a counter to the court decision if it found in our favor.
  • CWA has begun preparations for negotiating the next State Worker contract. We are meeting with Stewards state-wide on March 5th and sending information back to worksites. 

The legal work is not over yet.

The mobilization and political work continues and will be intense over the next weeks and months as we confront the next state budget and threats to further “reform” the pension. We will need every hand on deck. We will need every member to stay informed and active so we can work for solutions that will protect our retirement security – for those closer to retirement and for newer workers alike.

 

Adam Liebtag

President

After a vote by the Senate on January 9, both houses of the New Jersey legislature have now passed a resolution to override the dangerous rule changes to the Civil Service system proposed last year.  

Demonstrating the seriousness of this issue, this is the first time in its history that the legislature has used its authority to revoke a proposed rule change in a department or at a commission.

On December 23, 2013 the Civil Service Commission released revisions to its original attacks on the fundamental protections of the civil service system. Their revised proposals do not alter their original intent to shred the system’s safeguards against patronage, favoritism, and discrimination. Their position is that the “substantial revisions” which limit the scope of affected employees to include only State workers should trigger a new timeline for public hearing and, indeed, constitute a new proposal. 

Our position (shared with our allies in the legislature), is that this is the same old set of attacks and the proposed changes are still subject to the legislative override process that just concluded. Regardless, we’ll continue to do everything we can to protect the integrity of the civil service system. As more hearings and legislative dates are scheduled, we’ll make sure to include all details in the e-newsletter and in worksite meetings around the state.

Obviously, with the news stories the news swirling around our state right now, we’re all reminded of the need to ensure a fair, just system of protecting public services and public employees from political retribution and patronage!