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New Jersey judge tosses public pension funding suit

By Hilary Russ

Oct 8 (Reuters) - A New Jersey judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit by trustees for the state's public pension funds that sought nearly $4.1 billion of contributions into the retirement system.

The suit was one of several that sought a remedy after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, now a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, reduced the amount of money the state had planned to contribute beginning in fiscal 2014.

Judge Mary Jacobson ruled from the bench in Trenton after oral arguments on Thursday and said she would issue a written decision later, Robert Klausner, who represents the trustees, confirmed.

"It's disappointing," Klausner said. "The state may look at it as a victory, but it's just going to hasten the day when they're going to have to pay these benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis."

Governor Chris Christie's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The state enacted bi-partisan pension reforms in 2011 that called for the administration to step up funding over several years until it reached its full actuarially required contribution annually.

Although Christie championed the stepped-up contributions when they became law, he reduced them in 2014, saying the state did not have the money and that he would not pay for unfunded liabilities, which he called "sins of the past."

Public sector unions sued to try to force Christie to restore the cuts, but the state Supreme Court ruled against them in June.

That prompted the trustees to amend their own suit, which the judge rejected on Thursday. They had sought a judgment saying that the state owed the difference between what it had promised to pay under the 2011 reforms and the lower portion it actually paid.

For the three biggest funds - for teachers, public safety officials and state employees - that difference amounted to nearly $4.1 billion over fiscal 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The chairs of the pension boards will review the order and decide whether to appeal, Klausner said.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)