10. That the State must get its financial house in order is plain. The need is compelling in respect of the State’s ability to honor its compensation commitment to retired employees. But the Court cannot resolve that need in place of the political branches. They will have to deal with one another to forge a solution to the tenuous financial status
of New Jersey’s pension funding in a way that comports with the strictures of our Constitution. The Debt Limitation Clause and the Appropriations Clause envisioned no role for the Judiciary in the annual budget-making process and prevent it from having to perform the unseemly role of deciding in that process whether a failure to fully fund a statutory program, including one labeled a contract, was reasonable and necessary. A Contracts Clause analysis would require annual incursions by the Judiciary into second-guessing spending priorities and perhaps even
revenue-raising considerations in recurring years. Under the Debt Limitation Clause and the Appropriations Clause, the responsibility for the budget process remains squarely with the Legislature and Executive, the branches accountable to the voters through the electoral process. This is not an occasion for the Judiciary to act on the other branches’ behalf. (pp. 61-68)
The judgment of the Law Division is REVERSED.
More later on the opinion but, for now, if there is anyone out there looking to do any business with the state of New Jersey, it might be a good idea to get your money up front.