Gov. Chris Christie must make full payment to pension fund



The people of New Jersey need to come to grips with a reality that will soon have a tremendous impact on the state’s economy. That reality is that if the current funding of the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) remains the same, the fund will be insolvent in 2027. That is just 12 short years from now.

Now, this was not supposed to happen, according to Gov. Chris Christie. In 2011, Gov. Christie signed into law language that gave all employees within the state’s pension system a contractual right to have the pension funded.

Gov. Christie pranced across the nation telling anyone who would listen how he and the Democratic- controlled Legislature worked together to help avoid a future crisis by working out a payment plan over the next seven years that would help bring the pension fund back to an acceptable level.

This plan required teachers and the state to contribute more into the pension. At present, the teachers are the only ones holding up their end of the deal. This is not to say the governor has not put money into the fund — he has. However, he is not putting in the required amount to bring the pension back to a respectable level.

To be fair to the governor, he inherited this problem; however, he now owns it. While other New Jersey governors have contributed to the problem, none of those previous governors traveled from coast to coast bragging of bipartisanship and effective government.

No other New Jersey governor claimed to have fixed the pension problem and made it his/her signature issue. Gov. Christie rode the wave of pension reform from “sea to shining sea,” all the while rising in the national polls. This is why he can longer blame those who came before him.

The good news is that this crisis can be averted if the governor would simply follow the law he touted as a symbol of bipartisanship and shared sacrifice. All he needs to do is properly fund the pension according to the agreed-upon payment plan made in 2011.

Unfortunately, Gov. Christie’s attorneys are now arguing before the state Supreme Court that forcing him to make the payment is unconstitutional. This is where the water becomes murky for me.

The governor, just four short years ago, was telling anyone who would listen that his new signature piece of legislation would rescue the pension fund. How could the governor sign a bill into law if he believed part of that law was unconstitutional? How could the governor keep a straight face when he went from morning show to morning show explaining how the state would live up to its obligations when all the while he believed it was unconstitutional? This, more than anything else, speaks to the character of our governor. He cannot be trusted, and his position is clear. He is willing to put New Jersey’s economic future at risk for his national political aspirations.

This is why the citizens of this state need to take this matter into their own hands. It is time for us to demand that the pension be properly funded, as the law states. It is time for us to demand that the Republican legislators stand with their Democratic counterparts and make it clear to the governor that anything less than the full legally required payment into the TPAF is unsatisfactory and will have dire consequences if the status quo remains.

If we do not demand this from our legislators, then in just 12 short years, New Jersey’s economic future will be in peril.

Casey Barilka of Howell is the vice president of the Matawan Regional Teachers Association in the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District.