A good sense of how the New Jersey Supreme Court is leaning on the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) case can be gleaned from the first question asked at oral arguments which was of the state and had nothing to do with what the state argued at the hearing (that silly unequivocal intent and sovereign power stuff) but rather how the state can define the term ‘benefits program’ to exclude COLAs when COLAs are part of benefits already being received:
- The state argues that COLAs are outside the definition of ‘benefits program’ in the law and thus not protected from forfeiture had they been under that definition.
- Most retirees are already receiving COLAs (as provided prior to 2011) as part of their benefits.
- What then are those COLAs if not part of the ‘benefits program’?
The question was posed pretty clearly (with an example even) and I don’t see the state’s response as providing much cover for anyone eager to be persuaded to their view: