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NJ's Christie Steals Near $900M From Union Pensions, Court Says It's Fine

A decision that only applies to the fiscal year ending Monday was issued today by Judge Mary Jacobson, and it's a loss for the more than dozen NJ unions that claimed Gov. Chris Christie's decision to cut the state's payment into its pension system by nearly $900 million was a violation of the law. Her decision comes just 5 days before the end of this fiscal year.

Jacobson said Christie's decision:  

"was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances of this budget shortfall of over $1 billion ... (which) gave painfully few options with two months left in the fiscal year."

Jacobson said a decision on the budget the NJ Legislature plans to approve in both houses tomorrow would be premature because that budget is not yet finalized.

There was an undulating red sea of CWA members in union tee shirts outside the courthouse, chanting "Governor Christie, what do you say. How many lies have you told today? and Make the full pension payment! Obey your own law! during the hearing. Inside, lawyers argued that all non-essential funds for this year be frozen and given to the retirement fund.

The fight's not over. The unions are expected to appeal. And Jacobson expects to hear arguments as the same unions challenge Christie's plan to cut the payment for the fiscal year beginning Tuesday down to $681 million from $2.25 billion.

Christie did another of his "town halls" in Haddon Heights this morning. Outside was a group of Haddon Heights Education Association members and supporters who made the point that their union's members – NJEA, among those challenging Christie on the cuts – paid into the pension, and it's NJ's turn to do so. Inside the "town hall," Christie told his faithful that he will veto any state tax increase proposed to fix the state's budget crisis.

The Democrats' budget plan, engineered by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Speaker (and until this session, chair of Assembly Budget) Vincent Prieto, would make the full pension payment required by law. Their plan relies on a millionaire's tax to sunset after three years and tax increases on New Jersey businesses.  

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