In the case of DePascale vs. State of New Jersey just heard by the New Jersey State Supreme Court, it has been argued that a new law requiring Justices and Superior Court Judges to make larger contributions towards the cost of their healthcare insurance and pensions reduces their salary which is prohibited by the Constitution.
A section of the State Constitution reads: “The salary of Supreme Court Justices and Superior Court Judges shall not be diminished during their term of office.”
Increasing the amount these esteemed judicial officials must pay to purchase healthcare insurance and pensions does diminish their purchasing power but does not diminish their salary.
If DePascles’ argument is sustained, then it could similarly be argued in the future that anything which diminishes these officials’ purchasing power (although not affecting their salary) would be in violation of the Constitution and hence, illegal. Note this section does not bar any diminishment of salary only action by the Sate.
Thus, following DePascales’ logic, should federal, state or local governmental entities increase income or property tax rates or Social Security or Medicare deductions, it would be equally valid to argue these actions would diminish the salary of these officials since such actions would diminish their purchasing power.
In fact, if the Court finds for the plaintiff in the cited case, one might even argue that when the price of gasoline, groceries, utilities or housing increases, it “diminishes their salary” in the same way as increasing the price of purchasing their health insurance and pension did. Consequently, one would conclude they should never have to pay a higher price for anything they purchase during their term of office.
Clearly, this argument is totally fallacious, was never the intent of the drafters of the constitution or the people that voted for its adoption and should be summarily dismissed.
Senator Sam Thompson (R-12) is a veteran legislator from Middlesex County beginning his first term in the New Jersey State Senate.