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Proposed constitutional amendment to fund pensions lacks transparency

Proposed constitutional amendment to fund pensions lacks transparency

It’s only fair that the State of New Jersey keeps its promises to tens of thousands of retirees regarding their pension payments. So, it was no surprise when the respected Monmouth University Polling Institute recently conducted a survey that found more than 70 percent of New Jersey voters would support a proposed constitutional amendment, advanced by Trenton Democrats, that would force the state to contribute to the public pension fund.

The problem is that the Democrats intentionally decided to hide key facts from taxpayers regarding their pension amendment and were quite literally trying to trick voters into supporting their amendment on the ballot.

Monmouth University Polling Director Patrick Murray said it best: “New Jersey voters support the principle of meeting our obligation to public employees, but it is not at all clear they understand how this constitutional amendment would ‘tie Trenton’s hands’ … [and] they won’t understand it when they walk into the voting booth, since the wording of the proposed ballot questions and interpretive statement says nothing about these probable trade-offs.”

The trade-offs that Mr. Murray references — and that the Democrats willfully refused to disclose — are that mandating pension payments through the constitution means pensions for public employees would take precedence over all other types of state spending, including K-12 schools, roads/bridges, programs for seniors, veterans and the poor. Every one of those programs would be forfeited to pay the pension.

To put it another way, the special interests who control the Democrats’ legislative agenda want to constitutionally mandate that public employee pensions are the most important line item in our state budget — more important than children’s education, more important than the roads and bridges we travel on, more important than programs to help seniors, veterans and the poor.

It is no surprise that when voters learn the whole truth, their opinion shifts dramatically away from their original widespread support. In fact, the Monmouth University poll showed that when the facts are fully presented, only 25 percent of voters would make the full pension payments while 63 percent would rather fund the schools. Twenty-eight percent would make the full pension payments while 58 percent would rather fund services for the poor. Thirty percent would make the full pension payments while 59 percent would rather fund roads and bridges.

The Democrats will no doubt try to claim that the pension amendment won’t impact other services. However, the reality is that the only alternative to slashing valued programs and services would be a substantial increase in the sales tax and/or increase in our income tax. Even the Supreme Court saw this coming, which is why they ruled that forcing the full pension payments would strangle the rest of our state’s finances.

The bottom line is this: We have no more to give and neither will our children. By bankrolling the Trenton Democrats’ legislative campaigns, the special interest power brokers have vast amounts of control over the Democrat agenda in Trenton and are assured of getting whatever they want regardless of the negative consequences to taxpayers. Their proposed constitutional amendment is terrible public policy, but unfortunately political power is more important to them than doing what’s right.

I urge everyone reading this to follow the money rather than letting Trenton take more of yours.

Donna M. Simon
Readington Township