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Spadoro v. Whitman

June 30, 1997

GEORGE A. SPADORO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MAYOR OF EDISON TOWNSHIP, MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND BRIAN CLYMER, TREASURER OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



Chief Justice Poritz and Justices Pollock, O'hern, Garibaldi, and Coleman join in the Court's Order. Justice Handler has filed a separate Concurring and Dissenting opinion, in which Justice Stein joins.

To the Appellate Division, Superior Court:

This matter having come before the Court on plaintiff's appeal as of right and petition for certification from the judgment of the Appellate Division, and the Court having considered the same, and good cause appearing;

It is ORDERED that the appeal (A-212-96) and petition for certification (C-1385-96) are dismissed as moot.

WITNESS, the Honorable Deborah T. Poritz, Chief Justice, at Trenton, this 30th day of June, 1997.

JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES POLLOCK, O'HERN, GARIBALDI, and COLEMAN join in the Court's Order. JUSTICE HANDLER has filed a separate Concurring and Dissenting opinion, in which JUSTICE STEIN joins.

HANDLER, J., Concurring in part and Dissenting in part.

Plaintiff George A. Spadoro, individually and as mayor of Edison Township, has challenged the constitutionality of the Pension Bond Financing Act of 1997 ("Bond Act"), L. 1997, c. 114. The Bond Act provides for the issuance of approximately $2.7 billion in bonds by the Economic Development Authority ("EDA"), with the proceeds to be used to pay the State's obligations for the unfunded accrued liability of several state pension systems. The State, in turn, will pay the interest and principal payments on the bonds, subject to future legislative appropriations

Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment against defendants Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Brian Clymer, the State Treasurer, that the Bond Act was unconstitutional and, further, that the proposed state budget for fiscal year 1997-98 violates the New Jersey Budget Act. Plaintiff asked the Superior Court, Law Division, to declare that the budget submitted by the State Treasurer must be balanced, to enjoin defendants from taking any action in furtherance of the proposed bond sale, and to enjoin the Governor from submitting to the Legislature a budget that is balanced based upon the bond issue. Plaintiff's complaint alleged that the Bond Act violated several provisions of the New Jersey Constitution, namely, Article VIII, Section II, Paragraph 3 (the Debt Limitation Clause); Article VIII, Section II, Paragraph 2 (the Appropriations Clause); Article III (the Separation of Powers); Article IV, Section VII, Paragraph 4 (the Single Object Clause); and Article IV, Section VII, Paragraph 3 (the Contract Clause).

In an unreported opinion, the Superior Court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on June 10, 1997. Spadoro v. Whitman, No. MER1051-97. The court found that the Act was in violation of neither the Debt Limitation Clause, N.J. Const. art. VIII, § 2, P 3, nor the Single Object Clause, N.J. Const. art. IV, § 7, P 4, in effect, obviating a separate determination of the other alleged constitutional violations. The Appellate Division summarily affirmed the judgment of the Law Division in favor of defendants. The Court today dismisses plaintiff's challenge on grounds of mootness.

Because of the dismissal of this case, and the fact that the decision of the trial court was, of necessity, relatively abbreviated and unpublished, the Disposition of this litigation does not represent a significant constitutional adjudication. Even if the case may be considered moot, I believe it should be adjudicated because of the importance of the underlying issue and the possibility of its recurrence. To that extent, I Dissent from the Court's order and write to express my view that the Bond Act violates the Constitution's Debt Limitation Clause.

The central issue in this action is whether the Bond Act violates the Debt Limitation Clause of the State Constitution. *fn1 That clause provides:

The Legislature shall not, in any manner, create in any fiscal year a debt or debts, liability or liabilities of the State, which together with any previous debts or liabilities shall exceed at any time one per centum of the total amount appropriated by the general appropriation law for that fiscal year, unless the same shall be authorized by a law for some single object or work distinctly specified therein. Regardless of any limitation relating to taxation in this Constitution, such law shall provide the ways and means, exclusive of loans, to pay the interest of such debt or liability as it falls due, and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof within thirty-five years from the time it is contracted; and the law shall not be repealed until such debt or liability and the interest thereon are fully paid and discharged.

Except as hereinafter provided, no such law shall take effect until it shall have been submitted to the people at a general election and approved by a majority of the legally ...


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