Sweeney, Prieto can Weigh in on Pension Lawsuit, NJ Supreme Court Says
Updated On: Jun 20, 2015
Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address in February before a joint session of the senate and assembly. (Mel Evans | The Associated Press)
NJ.com - TRENTON- The New Jersey Supreme Court said Monday it will allow state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney and stet Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to weigh in on a legal dispute over Gov. Chris Christie's cuts to the state's public worker pension contributions.
Sweeney and Prieto filed a "friend of the court" brief last week in support of public worker unions seeking to force Christie to restore $1.57 billion he cut from this year's pension payment. The Democratic leaders teamed up to ask the state's high court to uphold the trial court ruling that Gov. Chris Christie breached public workers' contractual right to full pension funding.
Christie has appealed that ruling, saying the 2011 pension law at the center of the legal fight is invalid and that the court shouldn't intervene in budget matters. Lawyers for the state also opposed allowing Sweeney and Prieto to interfere.
Oral arguments are scheduled for May 6.
Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Prieto (D-Hudson) said in their filing they felt "compelled" to help shape the suit in light of Christie's plans that the pension law he signed and championed is unconstitutional.
"The clear and unambiguous language ... shows that the law created a contractual obligation on the part of the state to make the annual required contribution and gives the members of the pension systems, or their respective boards of trustees, the right to bring an action in Superior Court... to enforce the contractual right of each employee," according to their brief.
Christie slashed the $2.25 billion planned pension payment to $681 after tax collections came up short, and vetoed the Legislature's proposal to raise taxes on millionaires and corporations to make up the difference.
Labor unions last week applauded the support, while Christie accused the duo of "suing themselves."