New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says his plan to lower contributions to public employee pension funds is a state budget matter and no business of the courts.
The Christie administration make that argument in its latest filing Thursday in a lawsuit over his plans for the state to make lower contributions than what is outlined in a 2011 law.
Christie is calling for a $1.3 billion contribution, which would be the largest ever made by the state but less than half the amount called for in the law. The governor contends the plans are part of his state budget proposal and says it's inappropriate for unions to sue over a state budget, which is to kick in July 1.
The lawsuit is a variation of previous complaints before Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson over less than a year.
Unions sued Christie last year over his decision to reduce pension funding in the 2014 state budget amid a surprise revenue shortfall. Jacobson said he could reduce that payment because it was an emergency.
They're also suing over his failure to make the planned payments in the current budget. Jacobson agreed with the unions and ordered that the full payment be made; the state's appeal in that case is scheduled for arguments before the state Supreme Court in May.
The state Attorney General's Office harkened back to a ruling last June to make its latest case. Christie's lawyers noted that Jacobson refused last summer to consider pension funding in the budget that was not yet adopted because it was not finalized. They say Jacobson should make a similar ruling this time.
The administration also said there would be no immediate harm to public employees because retirees will continue to get their full payments even if the contributions are lower than planned.
Unions for the workers say Christie is imperiling the pension funds, though, and he is contractually obligated to make the payments he agreed to under the deal four years ago.
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