Is Having Too Many Ballot Questions a Bad Idea?
Although some Democratic leaders in the New Jersey Legislature said they will discuss the possibility of adding a question to the ballot regarding future pension payments, one political expert said putting too many questions on the ballot sends a bad signal.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) did not say he supported the move, which would ask voters to amend the state constitution to require governors to make full payments annually into the public employees' pension system. He did, however, say he would talk to his caucus.
"When the governor stands in the way of good policy then we should go to the people of the State of New Jersey. We have obligation to them," Sweeney said. "We put minimum wage on the ballot and the people of the state of New Jersey overwhelmingly supported it."
This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Christie did not have to contribute an additional $1.57 billion to the pension system. Democrats said Tuesday that they would pass a state budget that fully funds pensions, but if it includes a millionaires' tax increase it is unlikely Christie would sign it into law, because he vowed to veto any income tax increase. He has vetoed a millionaires' tax hike four times in the past.
"If the governor continues to act irresponsibly by refusing to fund the pension system according to the law, then we will call on the Senate President and the Speaker of the Assembly to approve a constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot," said American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations President Charlie Wowkanech.
A governor of New Jersey has no power to stop a question from being put on the ballot if the Legislature approves an enabling resolution with the proper amount of votes. It cannot be vetoed. Monmouth University poll director Patrick Murray said it is a slippery slope if lawmakers go to the voters too often.
"The signal that we're being sent is simply that Trenton can't work on behalf of the people who sent our legislators there," Murray said. "If it's an issue of policy it's a political question so why aren't the people in Trenton dealing with it?"