Pension Leaders Question if NJ Should Do More to Shore Up System

New Jersey has the nation’s worst-funded public-employee pension system, and in a bid to help put it on a firmer footing, state lawmakers last week overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill that calls on the state to begin making pension contributions on a quarterly basis. But the leaders of the board that oversees investment policy for the pension system are divided on whether lawmakers should be going even further to address the state’s pension-funding problem.

Tom Byrne, chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council, said yesterday that he supports the legislative proposal advanced by lawmakers that would see the state shift to a schedule that would break the pension contribution up into quarterly installments instead of just a single year-end deposit.

But labor representatives who serve on the panel say, while they’re also in favor of the change to quarterly payments, they want to see more aggressive action to bring the pension system back to better health. They’re calling for the quarterly payment schedule to be written into the state constitution, which carries more force than a simple state law, and they want the payments themselves to be based off actuarial assessments instead of what the state budgets for the pension system on an annual basis, which typically falls far short of what the actuaries calculate.

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