July 9, 2017 at 3:00 AM
One day before the June 30 budget deadline, when all eyes were focused on the controversial Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey bill, state lawmakers pulled off a remarkable sleight of hand.
Quickly and quietly, with little to no outside analysis, the Legislature approved Gov. Chris Christie’s unprecedented plan to transfer the New Jersey Lottery’s assets and revenue stream to the beleaguered state pension system, which has the largest unfunded liability in the nation.
A report by Municipal Market Analytics called the governor’s plan “magic” and said it was “an accounting scheme (and gamble) for optics and budgetary relief.”
Just like that, the pension system could claim an additional value of $13.535 billion — the value the bill put on the lottery — and book a corresponding reduction in its unfunded liability.
Just like that, the pension system was promised approximately $1 billion a year in revenue from the lottery.