Christie Proposes Using Lottery Funds for Pensions in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (l.) has proposed using state lottery funds to offset the state’s pension system in his annual budget address. The proposal caught state legislators by surprise, with most saying more details are needed on the plan.

Governor Chris Christie proposed using new jersey lottery funds to offset the state’s public pensions for a period of 30 years in his annual budget address.

Christie said the funds can offset the state’s recurring deficit in pension funds.

“This is a state-sponsored monopoly that spins off large amounts of cash,” Christie said. “The contribution would have the immediate effect of reducing the unfunded liability of the pension system by approximately $13 billion.”

Christie said the proposal would also have long-term benefits for the state.

“But let’s be clear, if implemented correctly, this action would increase the value and stability of our pension funds immediately and would please bond investors and credit rating agencies, also giving greater confidence to New Jersey’s public employees,” Christie said. “I am committed to making every effort to fix our long-term pension problem.”

According to the state’s constitution, lottery revenue is intended to fund “state institutions” and education.

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney told the Press of Atlantic City that Christie has only recently floated the idea,

“It could be a great idea or a bad idea. I don’t know,” Sweeney said following the address. “We just have to run the numbers to see. I’m not going to criticize it. There are just a lot of questions and few answers.”

During Christie’s administration, pension and health care crises have limited the state’s ability to address other key issues, Christie said.

This year’s budget calls for a $2.5 billion contribution to the state’s pension system. Since taking office in 2010, Christie has contributed more than $8.7 billion to the system. From 1995 to 2010, pension contributions totaled more than $3.4 billion, according to the Press.

“The escalating costs of fulfilling our pension and health benefit obligations continue to erode the state’s ability to address all of the important issues we want and need to address as a state,” Christie said.