TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dozens of people carrying signs disrupted a conservative group’s rally over pension funding on the steps of the New Jersey statehouse Thursday, and urged Gov. Chris Christie to fund the state’s pension.
But Christie said it’s time for the state’s public workers unions to “get realistic.”
The dueling rallies come after the state Supreme Court ruled in Christie’s favor Tuesday over the state’s pension payments after Christie sought to pay less than required by a 2011 law.
The state Supreme Court overturned a lower-court judge’s order that told the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature to work out a way to increase pension contributions for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
In a 5-2 ruling, the court said there wasn’t an enforceable contract to force the full payment, as unions had argued there was.
The court held pensioners are entitled to the benefits but sorting out the payment is up to lawmakers and Christie.
“If we had all the revenue to be able to pay it, I would pay it. But we don’t and I am not going to raise taxes on the people of New Jersey to do it,” Christie said after an appearance in Iowa. “I think what happened this week was that the court was sending a dose of realism to the folks.”
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank) joined the conservative think tank Americans For Prosperity New Jersey Thursday and engaged the crowd, saying the state does not have $2 billion to make the payment.
“The mathematics don’t work here,” he said. “We don’t have the power to change the mathematics.”
The 2011 law requires a $3.1 billion payment in the next fiscal year, while Christie has proposed making a $1.3 billion payment.
The roughly three dozen counter-protesters shouted: “Fund the pension. It’s the law,” and marched along the edge of the street after a state trooper informed them rules require groups of more than 10 protesters must seek a permit to rally on the statehouse steps.
Democrats who control the Legislature have vowed to make the payment and have unveiled plans to introduce a tax on income over $1 million, though that proposal would not raise enough revenue to meet the demand. Democrats have not specified how they would make up the difference.
A new budget is due July 1.
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