(TRENTON) — In advance of Wednesday’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing with the state Treasury Department, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) issued a multimedia package Tuesday in which he discusses the reasons behind his filing of an Amicus Brief stating that the Christie administration is ignoring the law and the legislative intent of the 2011 pension reform bill.
The multimedia package consists of Speaker Prieto’s comments and audio and a transcript of same.
A clean (no music bed) audio file is available for download here.
A transcript of Speaker Prieto’s comments is appended below:
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto:
“The issue at hand is the pensions in the State of New Jersey.
“So, in 2011, we did reforms. And we changed the pension system, the way it was funded. Employees started paying more into the system. They actually then started paying for their health benefits. And, in turn, over a seven year period, we were going to do 1/7th payment every year to fully fund the pensions, to make up for all those years of non-payment — that pension holiday that the state took.
“So, we wanted to do the right thing.
“And last year, the Legislature did send a balanced budget that included all our obligations and, in turn, it was vetoed by the governor. Last year we put the minimum payment: $681 million. It was supposed to be $2.25 billion, which we actually figured out how to do that.
“He decided to veto it.
“When you trying to change the game after it started, it’s difficult. When people have invested their time, their life, their commitment to these jobs, you know, we owe them. And when we signed that law in 2011, we constitutionally said this is what’s due to you. There is a contractual obligation.
“And Governor Christie, for him to now come and say that it’s not constitutional, I think that is incorrect and that’s why we were compelled to file that Amicus Brief, to show the courts that we are in support of what the unions are saying: that this was a contractual obligation.
“Remember this: these people took on jobs that didn’t pay a lot. And one of the reasons they took the jobs was that there was some pension at the end of the day.
“The average state pension is $26,000, which is not a exorbitant amount of money. When they talk, ‘we have one of the most lavish pensions,’ there was just a report: out of the top 100 pension systems in the nation, we’re 95th.
“We have to be mindful that these are not numbers. These are people. These are lives. These are real human beings. And now it is our obligation because they have been doing the right thing. They’ve been putting their money in.
“So, what this means for us is that we need to really get to the table, start working together, figure out where we can fund it; how we can fund it. How does the State of New Jersey meet all its obligations?
“We have revenue issues. We need to grow our economy. We need to do things so we can meet all our obligations and we definitely take care of these people that have been doing the right thing for many years and now we can’t just hang them out to dry.”