Both the State Senate and Assembly were called to the State House today to vote on a bill that would bypass last week’s ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court which held that requiring judges to contribute more into their pensions and health benefits violated the state constitution. Both houses of the legislature approved a resolution to put on the November ballot whether the state constitution should be amended to give lawmakers the power to enact laws that reduce judicial salaries.
Alison Littell McHose, Deputy Republican Whip of the Assembly, couldn’t help but remark on the court’s self interest in the ruling.
“Last year, all state employees including judges were required to increase their contributions to their pensions and also to their benefits. And the judges felt that they did not need to be a part of that and they took it all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Court ruled in their favor. Judges ruling with judges. Imagine that,” quipped Littell McHose.
The Court’s ruling angered Democrats and Republicans alike. The assemblywoman said she wasn’t surprised by the bipartisan reaction to the decision because both sides understand the need for pension reform to help address the state’s severe fiscal woes.
“It’s a small number of people but it’s a big impact on the pension system and they should be complying as is all the other state employees, the legislature included, and pay their fair share.”
Littell McHose expressed frustration that legislators had just the constitutional amendment to consider today, saying they could have made better use of their time by considering other items.
“We have a whole slew of other bills including property tax reform and I feel that the Speaker [Sheila Oliver] and the Senate President [Steve Sweeney] should bring us in for more work and not just for one bill.”
With regard to other bills, when asked about Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal for an income tax cut, Littell McHose hinted that she would support a compromise plan that would pass both houses.
“The Democrats control both houses of the legislature. We have the governor’s office. So certainly we need to have bipartisan support on any plan going forward. I would say that in some way, shape or form, something like what the governor wants but there would be some changes along the way.”
According to Littell McHose, the main purpose of tax cuts is to provide tax relief to small business owners to encourage them to stay and stimulate the state economy.
“I think that it’s proven in economics that when you provide relief to small business owners who are the largest employers in the State of New Jersey that they will remain in New Jersey and maybe even continue to grow their businesses here in New Jersey.”