- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on Tuesday unveiled plans to put nearly $200 million in a revenue windfall toward the state’s public pension. But even with the unexpected boost, New Jersey would find it nearly impossible to make a more than $1 billion payment if the Supreme Court rules that way.

Christie reduced the pension payment in 2014 under budget constraints, despite a 2011 law that called for higher funding. Unions sued, and a lower court ruled Christie and lawmakers must make a $1.6 billion payment this fiscal year.

Christie appealed. The case is pending before the state’ highest court.

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‘HAVOC’ ON PROGRAMS

Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said Tuesday that the administration plans to use the $212 million of additional revenue to fund public pensions. Asked what the state would do if the court required Christie to make the payment this fiscal year, which ends June 30, Sidamon-Eristoff sounded pessimistic.

“Just being realistic, it seems somewhat remote that we would have enough uncommitted balances to meet such an obligation without visiting just havoc on programs services and other core spending commitments,” Sidamon-Eristoff said.

The Democrat-led Legislature’s budget and finance officer David Rosen essentially agreed.

“I’m not sure that that’s fiscally or physically possible in terms of the amount of money that is still left to be expended and the constraints that we have on how we could come up with that money,” Rosen said.

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NO ESCAPE

Sidamon-Eristoff said he is considering scenarios in case the court requires the additional payment in the next fiscal year. Christie has proposed a $1.3 billion payment, but the 2011 law calls for a nearly $3 billion cash infusion.

The treasurer did not share details but said the state would be forced to consider taking from school and municipal aid, for example.

“There are major program categories that would not and could not escape scrutiny,” he said.

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DIFFERENCES AHEAD

Treasury and the Legislature have different revenue expectations for 2016. Those projections matter because they’re used to craft the budget. So, if revenue falls below expectations, officials might have to cut certain programs. The Legislature projects the state will bring in $140 million above the state’s estimate for next year. The treasurers said the key difference appears to be Rosen is more confident that extraordinary capital gains received in 2014 will recur in 2015.

“We feel caution is appropriate, especially in light of the extreme volatility of this source of revenue,” Sidamon-Eristoff said.

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