On Monday it was reported that in an “amicus brief made public today, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) announced that they plan to officially inform Superior Court Mary Jacobson of their disapproval of the state’s failure to make the payments” into the state pension plan as required by the 2011 pension law.
With that warning the Office of the Attorney General filed their opposition to these lawmakers getting involved in this case since their only connection is that they were named in the original complaint and they happen to have enacted the law being interpreted
The legislators’ amicus brief was filed today and among the points made therein:
The New Jersey State Senate and New Jersey State General Assembly were named as defendants in the original complaint (hereinafter referred to as “Legislative Defendants”). The Legislative Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on June 18, 2014, which was granted without prejudice by the Trial Court on June 25, 2014.
Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and General Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (hereinafter “Presiding Officers”) submit this Amicus Curiae brief to inform to the Court that the position taken by Attorney General on behalf of Governor Christopher Christie with regard to Chapter 78 of the Laws of 2011 (codified as N.J.S.A. 43:3C-9.5) is contrary to the Legislative intent and the position of the Legislature. Specifically, the Presiding Officers advise the Court that they believe Chapter 78 to be constitutional, and that it created a contractual obligation to systematic funding of the pension systems.
The statute clearly defines the contractual right as “that the employer or other public entity shall make the annual required contribution on a timely basis to help ensure that the retirement system is securely funded and that the retirement benefits to which the members are entitled by statute and in consideration for their public service and in compensation for their work will be paid upon retirement.” The Legislature included the right to enforce the contractual obligation by stating that failure to make the annual required contribution “shall be deemed to be an impairment of the contractual right of each employee,” and conferred jurisdiction upon the Superior Court, Law Division, “over any action brought by a member of any system or fund or any board of trustees to enforce the contractual right” set forth in the statute. The clear and unambiguous language of Chapter 78 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 the Superior Court, Law Division, to enforce the contractual right of each employee.
The unfunded liability of the pension systems was caused by the lack of annual funding, not from impermissible borrowing. While members made the required payments to their respective pension systems and earned their pension rights through their continued employment, the State failed to make the Annual Required Contribution, thereby creating the unfunded liability. When Chapter 78 was enacted, neither the Governor nor the Legislature questioned the amount of the unfunded liability or the danger to meet future pension payments if the ARC was not paid in accordance with the payment schedule set forth in L. 2010, c. 1.
There is a strong presumption of validity afforded to legislative enactments.
For all of the above-stated reasons, the Presiding Officers advise the Court that they consider Chapter 78 to be constitutional, that the Legislature intended to create a contractual obligation on the part of the State to make the annual required contributions, in accordance with the schedule set forth in L. 2010, c.l, and give members of the pension systems or their respective boards of trustees the right to bring an action in the Superior Court, Law Division, to enforce the contractual right of each employee.