Put a ballot question to New Jersey voters and it usually gets mindlessly passed*. Of the 102 public questions since 1980 (as gleaned from this wonderful website), 93 have passed but in only two instances has the margins been as great as the 83% for 2012 Public Question #2 to “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”. In 1984 86% of voters wanted Senior Citizen clubs to be able to run raffles and in 1991 85% of voters wanted to “entitle crime victims to fairness, compassion and respect by the criminal justice system.”
What does this mean for judges in New Jersey?
If the legislature now has the power to make judges pay for their benefits couldn’t they now make them pay the entire cost? A pension of 75%-of-pay accruing over 10 years to a 55-year-old making $165,000 could easily cost over $100,000 annually. Add on the cost of a family insurance plan ($20,000?) plus various tax withholding and theoretically a judge could be pocketing a biweekly paycheck in the low triple-digits.
Is that fair?
Unfortunately for the judges, that’s not for them to decide any longer.
* Among the 9 that were voted down was bonding for a MLB stadium in 1987, not being able to use casino revenue for homestead rebates in 1985, allowing municipal court judges to be appointed by statute in 2008, bonding for affordable housing in 1990, extending terms for sheriffs from 3 to 5 years in 1986, allowing riparian lands (eminent domain?) in 1982 and allowing Sunday racing in 1980. Among those that passed but not with with as big a margin as the judge’s question were 76% for being able to recall elected officials in 1993 and 79% for Megan’s law outing sex offenders in 2000.