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Democracy Act makes necessary updates to N.J. election laws | Opinion

NJ.com
July 6, 2015
Louis Greenwald
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By Louis Greenwald

American democracy has always been built on the power of the vote. As President Lyndon Johnson once said, "The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice."

Despite that power, New Jersey has seen voter participation decline to historic levels in nearly every election over the past decade. We must ask ourselves why this has happened. Many factors are involved, but chief among them is our own election laws.

They are outdated relics from a different era – and a major part of the problem.

In June, our primary election achieved the dubious honor of breaking a 90-year-old record for low turnout, with just 5.1 percent of eligible voters exercising their fundamental right to vote. But this is not merely a problem that afflicts primary elections – in 2013 we experienced our lowest turnout in state history for a gubernatorial election, 39 percent.

And in 2011, we set a new all-time low for mid-term election turnout at a paltry 27 percent of registered voters.

New Jersey is ranks 39 in the United States in the percentage of eligible voters who are registered at 64.3 percent, compared to 82.8 percent for the top state. And, New Jersey is also ranked 39 in the country on average voter turnout at 54.5 percent, compared to the top state at 73.3 percent.

Democratic Leadership Urges Governor to Make Upfront $1.3 Billion Pension Payment

Assembly Majority Office
June 29, 2015
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Democratic Leadership Urges Governor to Make Upfront $1.3 Billion Pension Payment

Early pension payment projected to earn $87 million in extra investment income, shoring up underfunded system and saving future tax dollars

TRENTON - New Jersey's Democratic legislative leadership today called upon Governor Christie to make the state's $1.3 billion budgeted pension payment in early July to shore up the underfunded pension system.

The Senate and Assembly leaders authored a concurrent resolution calling upon the governor to make the upfront payment using the state's line of credit. Plans are for the Assembly and the Senate to vote on the resolution today. Democratic leaders plan to discuss the resolution during an 11:45 a.m. news conference on fiscal issues.

"Making the $1.3 billion payment now, rather than waiting until next June, would generate a projected $87 million in additional investment income for the pension system over the course of the year," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester).

"That's $87 million that taxpayers will not have to put into the system in the future, and that money will continue to grow year after year after year," Sweeney said. "This is a no-brainer that should draw bipartisan support."

N.J. Democrats say they'll make good on $3.1 billion pension promise with budget

NJ.com
June 21, 2015
Samantha Marcus
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TRENTON — Democratic lawmakers on Monday are expected to reveal their plan for a state budget they say would bridge the gap between the $1.3 billion Gov. Chris Christie wants to spend on public worker pensions next year and the $3.1 billion unions are demanding.

That plan likely relies on the controversial millionaires' tax and a surcharge on corporation business taxes, and will resemble Democrats' efforts last year to restore $1.57 billion to pensions cut by Christie, sources with knowledge of budget talks say.

The last time Democrats proposed the millionaires' and business tax hikes, they were redlined by Christie. He's given no indication that he's budged from his opposition to the income tax increase, which all told he's vetoed four times.

Most observers expect that fate looms again as the state Assembly and Senate put the final touches on a budget that could spend $1.8 billion more on pensions than Christie's $33.8 billion spending plan.

The state Senate and Assembly budget committees are scheduled to take up the budget Tuesday in prelude to the full Senate and Assembly on Thursday. The fiscal year begins July 1.

While legislative leaders and the governor have met to negotiate on the upcoming spending plan, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) declared June 9 that there was no chance of a compromise budget.

Bill to Help More New Jersey Workers Save for Retirement Advanced by Assembly Panel

http://www.assemblydems.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=9805

New Jersey Secure Choice Savings Program Act' Would Offer Security & Peace of Mind for Employees without a Current Retirement Plan

(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Speaker Vincent Prieto, Tim Eustace, Joe Lagana, Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Annette Quijano, Joseph Danielsen and Raj Mukherji sponsored to create a unique, new program to help more New Jersey workers plan for retirement was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Labor Committee.
The bill (A-4275), which is modeled after the first-in-the-nation plan recently signed into law in Illinois, would create individual retirement accounts for employees of firms with at least 25 workers who do not presently have access to an employer-provided retirement plan.
"This truly is a win-win for employees and employers," said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). "The vast majority of today's retirees rely primarily on social security payments for income. Meanwhile, retirement savings are a mounting anxiety for more and more workers. Under this program, employees who would otherwise have no private retirement plan will now have access to one. And smaller companies will now have a great incentive tool to help recruit and retain employees without any financial burden."