New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's ongoing battle with public employee unions over pension contributions is headed to the state's highest court.
The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed on April 6 to hear the state's appeal of a Feb. 23 Superior Court ruling that sided with unions who filed a lawsuit against Christie after he stripped $1.6 billion from the state's planned 2015 pension contributions. The unions argued that a 2011 law implementing a scheduled ramp-up of the state's pension funding for seven years created a contractual right for the money to go to employee pensions. Oral arguments in Trenton are slated for May 6, 55 days before the state's 2015 fiscal year ends on June 30.
Christie vetoed the $1.6 billion pension payment from the 2015 budget last June.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in late June 2014 that the Republican governor could withhold $884 million in pension payments to balance the 2014 budget since the state had few financial options in a short time frame, but added that a "different analysis could very well be required for fiscal year 2015." Jacobson's Feb. 23 ruling stated that "the court cannot allow the State to simply walk away from its financial obligations, especially when those obligations were the State's own creation."
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said there was no comment on the State Supreme Court decision to hear the governor's appeal. Christie's proposed 2016 fiscal budget is the sixth in a row that contains no new taxes.