I will be voting on November 6 but not for any person since the electoral process for individuals has devolved into a quagmire of obfuscation that allows for no reasoned discourse. However in New Jersey there are two ballot questions (laid out here in English, Spanish, and conveniently Chinese – I think).
Number 1 is straight-forward. Politicians want to build more school buildings to repay all those lawyers and contractors who fund their campaigns. No conflict for me here.
Number 2 is about judges in New Jersey being forced to pay more for their health and pension benefits which is supposed to win easy approval but I’m not so sure it should.
The ballot question reads:
Do you approve an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution, as agreed to by the Legislature, to allow contributions set by law to be taken from the salaries of Supreme Court Justices and Superior Court Judges for their employee benefits?
The official interpretive statement:
This amendment clarifies the Legislature’s authority to pass laws requiring contributions be taken from the salaries of Supreme Court Justices and Superior Court Judges for their employee benefits. These benefits include their pension and health care coverage. The amendment responds to a question raised in a 2011 lawsuit filed by a judge after the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law P.L.2011, c.78. That law increased the contributions taken from current and future justices’ and judges’ salaries for their benefits, starting in October 2011. The lawsuit, which was appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, argued against taking the higher contributions from currently appointed justices and judges, citing language in the Constitution that their salaries cannot be reduced during their appointed terms. The amendment clarifies that such contributions, set by law, may be taken from justices’ and judges’ salaries during their terms. It would also allow for the higher contributions set by P.L.20l1, c.78 to be deducted from current and future justices’ and judges’ salaries.
My interpretive statement:
This amendment clarifies the Legislature’s authority to change the constitution when an obviously biased legal interpretation subverts their right to legislate according to the needs and whims of their campaign donors. The amendment clarifies that contributions, set by law, may be taken from justices’ and judges’ salaries during their terms and would allow us to keep raising those contributions in the future until we get these guys to work for minimum wage (or whatever we feel like giving them).
Politicians upon taking office swear:
I, ____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the State of New Jersey; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and to the Governments established in the United States and in this State, under the Authority of the people; and that I will faithfully, impartially and justly perform all the duties of the office of __________________________________________________ according to the best of my ability, and that I will not use my office to grant preferential treatment, nor to seek personal gain, favor, or advantage not available to the general public, (so help me, God*).
That last part is pretty funny* but the crux of the oath is about upholding the constitution, presumably even if you don’t agree with the process that interprets it a certain way.
This ballot measure will win easily though it will have minimal impact on when the pension funds go belly-up. The trust likely lost far more in a couple of hours this week in the market then it will ever recoup from having 400 judges pay what might be, after the phase-in, an extra $20,000 each ($8 million annually) into their fund. But the damage it could do to the constitution is incalculable.
* Not the ‘God’ part which seems to be discretionary but that ‘personal gain’ language which a lot of politicians seem to be mishearing (or not hearing at all).