Poll Finds Little Support for Christie Pension Cuts
Updated On: Jul 18, 2015
NJ.com - TRENTON - While the state Supreme Court sided with Gov. Chris Christie over his cuts to payments into the public pension system, few New Jersey residents do, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday.
Twelve percent of New Jerseyans approved of Christie's decision to underfund the pension system this year, the survey of 504 adults said. Meanwhile, 42 percent of those polled disapproved of the governor's move and 46 percent, the largest subset, had no opinion.
The state will contribute $1.3 billion into the ailing pension system for government workers this year. State Democrats wanted to increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations to raise more money for the system, but Christie vetoed those changes to the budget for the fiscal year that began last week.
A portion of a 2011 pension law the court struck down last month required the state to put in $3.1 billion, while actuaries recommend even more.
The 2011 pension law, that required workers to contribute more for their pensions in exchange for increased funding from the state, was once considered Christie's signature achievement in his first term. But within years of signing the reforms, the governor said the state's economy hadn't revved up enough to keep up with the payment schedule.
Now, just 11 percent of residents say Christie can continue to take credit for "major accomplishments in fixing the state's pension system, according to the poll. Another 31 percent said he can claim minor accomplishments, while 47 percent said he's done nothing to turn the system around.
"The governor can't expect the public to see pension reform as one of his major accomplishments after he asked the court to overturn a key provision in his own law," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.
In 2014, gap between how much money is in the pension fund and what it would cost to pay for future benefits, grew to $40 billion. Christie has called for additional reforms to current and retired workers' pension and health benefits, warning that the cost to taxpayers is beginning to threaten other state programs.
But public workers have a lot of support in their corner, as the majority of residents said the state should keep its promise to them. Nearly a third think the state should pay pension benefits "no matter the cost," and 46 percent said that while benefits may be too high, the state should pay what it owes.
Another 19 percent said the state should cut benefits for current workers, according to the poll.
The June 30-July 1 survey of 503 adults had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. A subset of 453 registered voters had a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.