New Jersey’s highest court on Tuesday cleared the way for Gov. Chris Christie to cut $1.57 billion from state pension funding, a move that could bolster the Republican’s presidential hopes but still leave the state with fiscal struggles ahead.
The court, in reversing a lower court ruling, said while it laments the “staggering” loss of public trust resulting from broken promises, the pension payment at issue was not a contractual obligation entitled to constitutional protection.
Christie cut a $1.6 billion state contribution to the public pension system last year because of a revenue shortfall. The state’s pension system has about $83 billion of unfunded liabilities and was funded at only about 44 percent in fiscal 2014.
The stakes were high for Christie, who has trailed in polls behind rivals such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a fellow Republican. The governor’s representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Christie is battling to improve his record on the economy in his own state, where he has come under fire for his handling of the state’s sluggish recovery, as well as a scandal around the 2013 George Washington Bridge closure, which saw a former ally plead guilty to federal charges.
“This will be a much-celebrated victory after a year and a half of bad headlines,” said Tim Albrecht, a Des Moines, Iowa, Republican strategist. “The question is, will a lone victory be enough or will Chris Christie be able to parlay this into something bigger.”
The Supreme Court voted to reverse the lower court ruling by five votes to two.