TRENTON – The Legislature today acted to approve a resolution allowing New Jersey voters to decide if judges should contribute the same amount to their pension and benefits as other state employees are required to under a law passed last year.
A constitutional amendment is necessary to allow the new terms to be imposed on sitting judges, since the state Supreme Court ruled that pensions and benefits are part of a judge’s salary, which cannot be diminished which he or she is serving in office.
The state Senate approved SCR-110 by a 28-0 vote, while the Assembly approved the resolution by a 62-3 vote. Assemblymen Joseph Cryan (D-Union) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Plains) and Assemblywoman Marlene Caride, (D-Ridgefield) were the only dissenters.
“Rarely has the public seen such unanimity between the legislative and executive branches that the judicial branch was dead wrong,” said Gov. Chris Christie in a statement after the votes. “I congratulate the legislature for their decisive, bipartisan action that lives up to the promise of our historical pension and benefit reform by making sure everyone is treated fairly. I pledge to do all I can this fall to ensure passage of this amendment to our constitution and truly believe that New Jersey voters will deliver the same message of fairness to the judiciary as well.”
“Amending our constitution to make judges pay more will not threaten the independence of our judiciary, as long as we do not use it as a bat to strike at judicial decisions with which we disagree,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) on the Senate floor in support of the resolution. “The threat to the independence of our judiciary by SCR-110 is minimal, while the threat to the solvency of the judicial pension and health benefits fund is great. SCR-110 will lessen that threat.”
“This is not about penalizing judges,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange). “This measure will create fairness within our new system while maintaining the historical, democratically-held belief that the Judiciary should be free from political interference. Public approval of this ballot measure will ensure that everyone contributes equally to a fiscally responsible plan that will help shore up our pension systems.”
“This November, the voters of New Jersey will have an opportunity to send a strong message to the judicial branch, namely, that when it comes to contributing to the pension and healthcare benefits system, that judges are not a special class, and that they should be treated like all other public employees of this state,” said state Sen. Michael J. Doherty (R-Washington).
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