Gov. Jon S. Corzine has released a video message explaining his proposal to allow local governments to defer half their current pension contributions as a way to help avoid steep local property tax increases.
Noting that "raising taxes during a recession is a poor idea," Corzine says the temporary deferral will ease the cost of local government by $540 million in the year ahead.
The video is posted on the governor's Web site and is also available on YouTube, the Governor's Office announced Thursday.
Corzine originally proposed the pension payment deferral in a speech last week to local government leaders at the annual State League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City. The plan needs to be approved by the state Legislature.
In the nearly four-minute "Video Message to the People of New Jersey," a tieless Corzine speaks from his desk in the governor's office.
"By taking this unusual but necessary step, my intent is to help local governments get through these tough economic times without having to resort to the double-digit increases in property taxes that some towns had planned," he says.
He emphasizes that the deferral is only temporary.
"As our economy rebounds, we will again require 100 percent funding by 2012, and those payments will be larger in order to compensate for the deferral that is proposed today," he says.
The state pension fund covers retirement benefits for about 700,000 active and retired state, county and municipal employees. It has been hard hit by the stock market bust and is now worth less than $58 billion, down some $23 billion so far this year.
Republicans have criticized the governor's idea, questioning whether it will save any money in the long run and noting that the pension fund has been chronically underfunded by previous administrations.
State Sen. Bill Baroni, R-Mercer/Middlesex, who represents tens of thousands of state workers, has said deferring pension payments is "the last thing we should do."