Ruling expected in New Jersey pension funding lawsuit

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature will soon hear whether they must increase the state's contributions to public worker pension funds.

The New Jersey Supreme Court, the state's highest, said it will release an opinion Tuesday in the politically fraught and financially complicated case.

Earlier this year, a lower-court judge sided with unions who were suing Christie, finding he was contractually bound by a 2011 law to put more money into pension funds. The Republican governor had cut back contributions last year, saying the state could not afford the earlier deal.

Christie, a potential presidential hopeful, says he'll put a surplus of more than $200 million toward pensions at the end of this month, but that would be well short of the nearly $1.6 billion the lower court ordered.

There's broad agreement that there's no practical way for the state to make the entire payment by the time the fiscal year ends on June 30.

Some Democratic lawmakers have called for raising taxes on those earning more than $1 million as a major piece of the funding solution, but Christie has rejected such a tax hike. He says he wants a different pension system and has a plan to make up from funding shortfalls more slowly than what he agreed to do in 2011.