What Tuesday Means for New Jersey

There are only 18 Democratic governors left across the nation, and the survivors have some theories about why Democrats have been swept out of statehouses all over the country in recent years.

Many of the remaining Democrats are blaming an unpopular president.

In New Jersey on the other hand Democrats picked up four Assembly seats, widening their advantage to 52-28. The Senate is also controlled by Democrats.

State Republicans’ also have theories why New Jersey is bucking the national trend with remaining Republicans blaming an unengaged Governor Christie.

Overall, incumbents were widely re-elected to the Assembly with only a handful of Republican legislators losing to their Democratic challengers. Democrats picked up 4 seats bringing their total to 52, their largest majority in over 30 years. Republicans held onto 28 seats (down from 32). Below are brief summaries of races where at least one new individual was elected to the General Assembly.

–        First Legislative District: ATLANTIC (part) – CAPE MAY – CUMBERLAND (part) Counties

Republican incumbent Sam Fiocchi was defeated by Democrats R. Bruce Land. Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak was re-elected.

–        Fifth Legislative District: CAMDEN (part) – GLOUCESTER (part) Counties

Democrats Arthur Barclay and Patricia Egan Jones handily defeated their Republican opponents, Kevin Ehret and Keith Walker. They will replace outgoing Democratic Assemblymen Gilbert Wilson and Angel Fuetes.

–        Eighth Legislative District: ATLANTIC (part) – BURLINGTON (part) – CAMDEN (part) Counties

Republican Joe Howarth joins his running mate incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg in the Assembly. Both ran unopposed. Howarth is replacing retiring Republican Assemblyman Christopher Brown.

–        Eleventh Legislative District: MONMOUTH (part) Counties

Democrats Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey narrowly beat their incumbent Republican competitors Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande.

–        Sixteenth Legislative District: HUNTERDON (part) – MERCER (part) – MIDDLESEX (part) – SOMERSET (part) Counties

At the time of writing, Democrat Andrew Zwicker was leading incumbent Republican challenger Donna Simon by 29 votes, making it the tightest Assembly race. However, provisional ballots are still being counted, a process that will last until Friday November 6. From there, the losing candidate has until November 14 to file for a  recount. Republican incumbent Jack Ciattarelli was re-elected.

–        Twenty-Second Legislative District: MIDDLESEX (part) – SOMERSET (part) – UNION (part) Counties

Democrat James Kennedy was elected to replace retiring Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender. Democratic incumbent Jerry Green was re-elected.

–        Twenty-Fourth Legislative District: MORRIS (part) – SUSSEX – WARREN (part) Counties

Republican Gail Phoebus was elected to replace retiring Republican Assemblywoman Alison McHose. Incumbent Republican F. Parker Space was re-elected.

–        Thirty-First Legislative District: HUDSON (part) Counties

With no incumbents running for re-election in the district, Democrats Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti handily defeated their Republican opponents. They are replacing retiring Democratic Assemblymen Jason O’Donnell and Charles Mainor.

–        Thirty-Third Legislative District: HUDSON (part) Counties

Democrat Annette Chaparro was elected to replace retiring Democratic Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia. Incumbent Democrat Raj Mukherji was re-elected.

In terms of county elections below is a brief summary of newly elected individuals and ballot question results:

–        Atlantic County

Republican Maureen Kern was elected as the 2nd District’s Freeholder. The Republicans swept the elections in Atlantic County and were able to easily maintain their majority on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Incumbents Dennis Levinson, James Curcio, Frank Formica, and James Bertino were re-elected.

–        Burlington County

Republicans Kate Gibbs and Ryan Peters were elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders, defeating Democratic incumbents Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz. As such, Democrats lost their majority on the board.

–        Camden County

Democrats Susan Angulo and William Moen Jr. join Democratic incumbents Jeffrey Nash and Jonathan Young Sr. on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Camden also elected Democrat Gilbert “Whip” Wilson to the position of Sheriff, replacing outgoing Sheriff Charles Billingham.

–        Cumberland County

Newly elected Democrat James Quinn joins Cumberland’s Board of Chosen Freeholders. Incumbent Joseph Derella was re-elected. Overall, Democrats preserve their 4-3 majority.

–        Middlesex County

74% of individuals voted yes to the Public Question “Shall the governing body of the County of Middlesex prioritize funding to programs which provide transportation services for individuals in need of dialysis, chemotherapy or other regular medical services as a means of offsetting recent federal and state funding cuts?”

–        Morris County

Republican newcomers Christine Myers and Deborah Smith, and incumbent Republican John Cesaro were (re) elected to the Morris’ Board of Chosen Freeholders.

–        Passaic County

Democrats swept Passiac County’s Freeholder elections. Newly elected Cassandra Lazzara and incumbents John Bartlett and Hector Lora allowed Democrats to retain control of the board.

–        Salem County

Republican Melissa DeCastro and Democrat Charles V. Hassler remain in an extremely tight race, with DeCastro leading by 11 votes. At the time of writing, provisional ballots were being counted. Regardless of the outcome of this race, Republicans will retain control of the board.

So, the New Jersey Legislature now enters a lame-duck session after this week’s elections with several key questions still needing to be answered.

Among them: – Funding the New Jersey Pension- Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Omnicre- Out-of-Network, and most critically– Funding for the Transportation Trust Fund.

Serious conversations about raising New Jersey’s gas tax to head off a looming transportation-funding crisis were put on hold earlier this year, so lawmakers could focus on the Assembly elections that were just held in all 40 legislative districts earlier this week. But now with those contests in the rearview mirror, the talk in Trenton has shifted back to transportation.

Lawmakers from both parties said yesterday that they are willing to strike a bipartisan deal to renew the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road, bridge, and rail improvements throughout the state, using revenue from the gas tax and other sources, including from borrowing.

The lawmakers also seem to be in agreement that any deal they strike on transportation funding will likely have to involve raising the state’s 14.5-cent gas tax to bring in new revenue, since all of the money coming in from the gas tax is going to pay down debt. The trust fund is also up against its borrowing limit and only has enough money to make it until the end of June 2016.

There are also signs of hope that lawmakers in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats, will find common ground on the transportation-funding issue as well. They recently came together to pass a resolution supporting a plan to share costs with the federal government on a new Hudson River train tunnel. But how to convince Christie, who has signed an anti-tax pledge as a GOP presidential candidate this year, to agree to a tax hike in the middle of his presidential campaign remains a big concern. When the issue came up during his monthly call-in radio show on NJ 101.5 FM earlier this week, Christie was noncommittal, saying only that he hasn’t dismissed a gas-tax hike outright.

Lastly, the State must deal with Governor Christie’s Cabinet/Staff Changes that include:

  • Richard Badolato was formally nominated as Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance. He has served as Acting Commissioner since August of this year.
  • Ford Scudder, COO of Laffer Associates, will be nominated to the position of State Treasurer. Current Acting Treasurer, Robert Romano, will be responsible for management and operation of Treasury activities.
  • Richard Hammer, Assistant Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, will become that department’s Acting Commissioner. He replaces Jamie Fox.

With it all, there remains the question of how committed Christie will be to solving New Jersey issues as long as he remains in the hunt as a presidential hopeful. Christie is pushing in New Hampshire, where the primary is not held until February.

Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., is senior director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC.

Duane Morris Government Strategies (DMGS) supports the growth of organizations, companies, communities and economies through a suite of government and business consulting services. The firm offers a range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant writing; development finance consulting, media relations management, grassroots campaigning and community outreach. Milita works at the firm’s Trenton and Newark New Jersey offices.

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

Follow him on twitter: @MartinMilita1

https://www.facebook.com/martin.milita

http://www.dmgs.com/

BLOGROLL

Martin Milita – About.me

Martin Milita :: Pinterest

Martin Milita @ Twitter

Martin Milita at Slideshare

Martin Milita on Google+

Martin Milita Yola Site

Martin Milita | Xing

Gambling mecca gone bad-Atlantic City, NJ

By Martin J . Milita, Jr., Esq.

It seems like only yesterday that Detroit filed for bankruptcy. It’s actually been more than two years since the initial filing, and almost a year since a judge approved the bankruptcy plan.

In the East, the fortunes of Atlantic City have always followed casinos, which is not a good sign in today’s economy. With four of the big gambling houses bankrupt, Atlantic City finds itself hurting for revenue.

The city has a $100 million hole in its budget. This is made worse by the fact that it keeps losing tax refund lawsuits. So far the city has been forced to refund $186 million in taxes after Casino owners contested their assessments.

But the pain isn’t all on the revenue side.

Atlantic City employs 29 city workers per 1,000 residents, almost triple the rate of Newark, with 11 employees per 1,000 residents, and Jersey City, with 10 employees per 1,000 residents. The mayor recommended laying off more than 200 workers, but that would still leave the city with a much higher worker-per-resident ratio than other cities.

So far, the New Jersey government, including the governor, has been quiet on the possibility of a bankruptcy in the state. The state has gone so far as to give the city more time to repay state loans. If Atlantic City goes under, it would be the first municipal bankruptcy in New Jersey since the depression.

While the state government hasn’t mentioned that the city might go bankrupt, it hasn’t taken that option off the table either. It could be that the governor wants to keep all avenues open, since he has the same financial issues at the state level. As long as bankruptcy is possible, he might have more leverage when negotiating pension reforms with unions.

Many other towns, counties, and states have fiscal woes that will only be addressed through some version of bankruptcy or negotiated restructuring. By the time that happens, investors and taxpayers have already lost.

Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq. is senior director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC.

Duane Morris Government Strategies (DMGS) supports the growth of organizations, companies, communities and economies through a suite of government and business consulting services. The firm offers a range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant writing; development finance consulting, media relations management, grassroots campaigning and community outreach. Milita works at the firm’s Trenton and Newark New Jersey offices.

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

Follow him on twitter: @MartinMilita1

https://www.facebook.com/martin.milita

http://www.dmgs.com/

NJ Gov. Chris Christie has conditionally vetoed P3 Infrastructure Bill

Martin J. Milita Jr. Esq., senior director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, offers: ”NJ Gov.  Chris Christie has conditionally veto P3 Infrastructure Bill”.

Duane Morris Government Strategies (DMGS) supports the growth of organizations, companies, communities and economies through a suite of government and business consulting services. The firm offers a range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant writing; development finance consulting, media relations management, grassroots campaigning and community outreach. Milita works at the firm’s Trenton and Newark New Jersey offices.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has conditionally vetoed a Senate bill that would expand public-private partnership opportunities for government entities, calling for the removal of provisions mandating prevailing wage requirements and project labor agreements.

These modifications to S2489 would further competitive bidding for projects and reduce costs, Christie said Monday in a veto message that also recommended that the departments of Transportation, Education and Community Affairs take leading roles in building and transportation projects.

The legislation sponsored by Senate President Stephen R. Sweeney , that  cleared the Senate in July, permits Local and state government units and school districts as well to enter into the partnerships, in which the private entity assumes administrative and partial or full financial responsibility for a project, according to the bill.

“While I agree with the sponsors that we must take advantage of the opportunity to improve our infrastructure through private investment, we must take care to ensure that the state has a unified plan of development that considers the impact of projects on our residents, the economic benefits of such projects, and the long term goals of the state,” Christie said in the message, which specified municipal projects and transportation work on bridges, roads and tunnels.

The departments Christie highlighted Monday in his veto message would work alongside the Economic Development Authority, which under the bill would review and approve applications and to cancel procurement after a short list of private entities is developed for projects in the public interest.

Presently only state and county colleges can enter the partnerships, according to state law. Christie cited the successes of such partnerships in Montclair State University and said others were planned or underway at Rutgers University, Ramapo College and the College of New Jersey.

The Assembly State and Local Government Committee had amended the original version of  the bill to allow the use of availability payments as a financing method, to specify that a contractor is precluded from taking on projects under $50 million if the contractor contributed more than 10 percent of the project’s financing, and to eliminate the $10 million project threshold and instead require that roadway or highway projects must include an expenditure of at least $10 million in public funds or any expenditure in private funds.

Other amendments make certain lease provisions permissive rather than mandatory, exempt private entities from procurement and contracting requirements applicable to the public entities, and exempt nonprofit projects from property taxation and assessments.

The committee prohibited the bundling of multiple projects and eschewed the requirement that a government entity assign a management employee to enforce the prevailing wage requirement. They added requirements of EDA approval prior to commencing procurement of the project; that the private entity establish a construction account to fully capitalize and fund the project; and that the general contractor, construction manager or design-build team would post performance and payment bonds, rather than the chief financial officer of the public entity.

Tax breaks would apply to nonprofits, and private entities are exempt from certain procurement and contract requirements that apply to public entities, according to the legislation.

The bill was introduced in the Senate in October and then reviewed by the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

Martin J. Milita, Jr., Esq. Senior Director

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

Follow him on twitter: @MartinMilita1

https://www.facebook.com/martin.milita

http://www.dmgs.com/

New Jersey Governor takes on Legislature’s Budget

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday whittled down a Democrat-backed budget to $32.5 billion and rejected measures that would have hiked taxes on those earning more than $1 million as well as increasing the state’s corporate business tax.

As many expected, the governor, a Republican, signed a state budget for the new fiscal year but only after taking his line-item veto to the $34.1 billion spending plan that the Democrat-controlled Legislature approved Thursday and using absolute vetoes to sink related bills that would have instituted the income tax and corporate business tax increases.

“Rather than enacting responsible policies that will encourage and allow New Jersey’s economy and revenues to grow, the Legislature appears to be intent on inhibiting economic growth with crushing taxes,” the governor said in a message accompanying the line-item veto.

The Democrats’ plan also included a $2.25 billion contribution to the state’s pension system, which the governor nixed in favor of the $681 million payment that he previously recommended as part of a $2.4 billion reduction in contributions for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

A judge on Wednesday refused to block Christie from cutting nearly $900 million from the pension contribution for fiscal year 2014 but declined to rule on matters related to fiscal year 2015, since the governor and lawmakers have yet to finalize a budget. The state has a constitutional deadline of July 1 to adopt a balanced budget.

Under lawmakers’ proposal, the marginal tax rate for incomes above $1 million would have increased from 8.97 to 10.75 percent for tax years 2014 through 2016, while the corporate business tax would have risen from 9 to 10.35 percent through a one-year surcharge. Those changes would have respectively generated an estimated $723 million and $389 million in revenue for the cash-strapped state.

In his veto messages, the governor said that increasing taxes on businesses and “highly productive taxpayers” would drive them out of the state.

“I strongly believe that punitively raising taxes on our already overtaxed residents and business owners is not the answer to the state’s short- and long-term fiscal challenges,” the governor said. “This bill would accomplish nothing more than to repeat the failed, irresponsible and unsustainable policies that were commonplace in Trenton for years before my administration.” (Credit AP).

The bill implementing the so-called millionaire’s tax would have also permanently increased the state earned income tax credit from 20 percent to 25 percent of the federal earned income tax credit. Christie said he supported increasing the credit but only as part of a broader plan to lower the tax burden for New Jerseyans across the board.

Also failing to secure gubernatorial approval on Monday was a measure that would have required the state to make contributions to the state’s pension systems on a quarterly basis. Such pension payments have historically been made at the end of the fiscal year.

“This bill represents an improper and unwarranted intrusion upon the long-standing executive prerogative to determine the appropriate timing of payments in order to properly match the timing of large annual expenditures with the timing of the actual receipt of state revenues,” the governor said in his veto message.

In a statement, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, defended the Democrats’ budget as a “fiscally responsible plan that would have honored the state’s commitments and increased funding for critical services.” (Credit AP).

“The governor, however, has decided to continue protecting the state’s wealthiest at the expense of the middle class and working poor,” Sweeney said. “His belief in punishing the middle class is one of the reasons New Jersey’s economy continues to lag behind that of our neighbors and the nation, while working people suffer the brunt of the consequences.” (Credit AP).

By: Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., Sr. Director.

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this article and what it may mean to you.

About Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC (DMGS):

Comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing U.S. and foreign clients at the federal, state and local levels, DMGS is as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Asia. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; and Washington, DC.

DMGS offers a full range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant identification/writing/administration, development finance consulting, procurement, grassroots campaigning, public relations, and crisis planning/crisis management needs.

Lawmakers in New Jersey and New York Pass Port Authority Transparency Bills

The New Jersey Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would subject the Port Authority to the open records laws of both New Jersey and New York, just a day after the New York Assembly passed a bill to reform the bi-state agency by making it operate more transparently.

In a news release Thursday, New Jersey’s Senate Democrats said the open records measure, sponsored by Sens. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen, and Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, includes technical changes recommended by the governor and is a counterpart to legislation approved by the New York Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December.

Under New Jersey bill S-2183, the Port Authority would be required to abide by the Open Public Records Act of New Jersey and the Freedom of Information Law of New York. Although the Port Authority adopted new policies and procedures concerning public access to its records late last year, the public does not have recourse to challenge the agency in court if the requested documents are not provided, because the authority is not subject to either state’s open records law, the release said.

The bill’s sponsors, who last week applauded parts of the New York Assembly bill but said it didn’t go far enough to ensure New Jersey’s voice would be heard on transportation issues, said in a statement Thursday that their bill helps bring some accountability to the Port Authority but more reforms are needed to overhaul the agency and protect state interests.

Approval of the New Jersey bill comes on the heels of the New York Assembly’s passage of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. James F. Brennan, D-Brooklyn. That bill, which was endorsed by Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last week, would replace the agency’s executive director and deputy with a new chief executive, prohibit the chairperson and commissioners from simultaneously holding staff positions and rotate the chairmanship every two years between the two states, among other measures.

Additionally, the Port Authority would be required to conduct a needs assessment and public hearings before raising tolls and fares, Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said in a news release Wednesday. Enhanced annual reports, financial audits, and publication of capital plan and advance debt issuance reports would likewise be required.

The reform bills come after recent calls for enhanced transparency at the agency, which has been embroiled in the George Washington Bridge scandal, and has been characterized by Christie and Cuomo as a “dysfunctional organization suffering from a lack of consistent leadership,” according to the Assembly’s release.

By: Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., Sr. Director.

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this article and what it may mean to you.

About Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC (DMGS):

Comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing U.S. and foreign clients at the federal, state and local levels, DMGS is as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Asia. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; and Washington, DC.

DMGS offers a full range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant identification/writing/administration, development finance consulting, procurement, grassroots campaigning, public relations, and crisis planning/crisis management needs.

Port Authority Reform Bill Introduced With Mixed Reception

The governors of New York and New Jersey on Thursday announced their joint support of legislation to reform the bi-state Port Authority by making it operate more transparently, but some lawmakers argue that the measure falls short of meeting transportation policy needs.

The proposed legislation, which Cuomo and Christie said achieves much-needed reform of the Port Authority, would replace the agency’s executive director and deputy with a new chief executive, prohibit the chairperson and commissioners from simultaneously holding staff positions and rotate the chairmanship every two years between the two states, among other measures, according to Cuomo’s office.

However, New Jersey legislators said they would introduce their own bill later this month, hold hearings with commuters and other stakeholders, and pass the measure later in the year. The two bills would then have to be reconciled, and passed as amended by both legislatures, they said.

Christie, who has faced recent criticism over the George Washington Bridge scandal, which directly involved officials at Port Authority, said in a statement Thursday that the agency’s structure, management, operations and governance are in need of reform to secure its future as a transportation and economic cornerstone. He said the bill includes key elements of the recommendations of a bi-state panel and legislation introduced by New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union.

NJ High Court Allows Christie Pension Cut

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Gov. Chris Christie’s $1.57 billion cut in pension funding under the state’s current budget, finding that a state law at the center of the case couldn’t create the kind of contractual rights that public employee unions claim rendered the cut illegal.

The split decision reverses Judge Mary Jacobson’s ruling in February that the cut violated Chapter 78, a 2011 law that increased employee pension contributions while giving workers a contractual right to statutorily mandated pension contributions from the state.

But the 5-2 opinion handed down by the high court now presents a whole new set of challenges to the politicians in both parties, namely, just how to get more money into New Jersey’s chronically underfunded pension system.

Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said in her 68-page opinion for the court that Lawmakers and Christie himself, who signed Chapter 78 into law, didn’t have the authority to enact a legally binding and long-term financial agreement through the statute, adding that such an agreement would also clash with the constitution’s appropriations clause.

“Chapter 78’s contractual language creates, at best, the equivalent of appropriations-backed debt that is accompanied by a strong legislative expression of intent to provide future funding,” the justice said.

It’s also not the place of the Supreme Court to wade into how pension contributions should be prioritized as part of the state’s annual budget, Justice LaVecchia added. The position of public employee unions would have left courts in the tenuous position of ruling on budgetary decisions each year where pension contributions weren’t made in full, according to the justice.

“The majority didn’t view it’s decision as striking down Chapter 78. Rather, the ruling makes clear that it is subject to appropriation and the annual budget process.

Justice Barry T. Albin sharply disagreed in a dissent joined by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, arguing that the decision eviscerates a promise that the political branches of state government made to public workers.

“The decision unfairly requires public workers to uphold their end of the law’s bargain — increased weekly deductions from their paychecks to fund their future pensions — while allowing the State to slip from its binding commitment to make commensurate contributions,” Justice Albin said. “Thus, public workers continue to pay into a system on its way to insolvency.”

Justice Albin’s hinged his dissent on the federal contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution. Chapter 78 is a binding contract that the clause prevents the state from breaking, according to the justice.

“Chapter 78 was not an aspirational or moral promise, but a solemn contract, which, once made, is binding on the State and cannot be nullified without offending the Federal Constitution’s Contracts Clause,” he said.

In a statement, Christie said the decision was a victory for taxpayers and “limited, constitutional government that recognizes the proper role of the executive and legislative branches of government.”

“The court’s position is clear, as is mine, it is time to move forward and work together to find a tangible, long-term solution to make our pension system and public employee health benefit costs affordable and sustainable for generations to come,” the governor said. “In light of today’s decision, I urge all interested parties to come back to the table and partner with me to finally solve this problem once and for all.”

Christie last year blamed revenue shortfalls when he announced a $2.4 billion reduction in pension payments under the 2014 and 2015 fiscal year budgets. In June 2014, Judge Jacobson refused to block the reduction for 2014 but didn’t rule on the 2015 contribution until earlier this year.

Reacting to the decision, Democratic leaders of the state Legislature pledged to make a full pension payment as part of the budget they send to Christie for the upcoming fiscal year, though there’s little doubt now that the governor will have the final say. Christie has proposed a $1.3 billion pension contribution for fiscal year 2016, well below the $3 billion contribution that unions have argued is statutorily required.

The  public-worker unions, meanwhile, now have to consider whether they want to wage a lengthy and potentially costly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or throw their support behind some other scheme to secure their retirements, like a constitutional amendment requiring more state pension funding.

There are also implications for the pension system itself, which covers the retirements of roughly 773,000 current and retired workers, and for the next state budget, which must be in place by July 1. Christie and legislative leaders remain far apart on the pension-funding issue and many other important fiscal matters.

The case is Christopher Burgos et al. v. State of New Jersey et al. v. Communications Workers of America AFL-CIO et al. v. Chris Christie et al., New Jersey Education Association et al. v. State of New Jersey et al. and Probation Association of New Jersey, Professional Case-Related Unit et al. v. State of New Jersey et al., docket number 75736, in the Supreme Court of New Jersey.