Buono: Pension & Benefits Reform Package Needed Now More Than Ever

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, a prime sponsor of one of the pension reform bills released today, praised the Senate State Government Committee’s swift action on the issue of public employee pension and benefits reform and predicted overwhelming passage of each of the measures on Monday.

Buono is the prime sponsor of one of the reform bills (S-4), which would, among other things, uniformly rein in exorbitant payouts for accrued sick and vacation time by requiring local government and school employees to adhere to some of the reforms approved in 2006 for state employees. This would include limiting sick leave payout to $15,000 and allowing only one year’s worth of vacation time to be carried over from year-to-year. Buono (D-Middlesex) issued the following statement:

“Our public employee pension and benefits system, which is the largest driver of local property taxes, is about to collapse under its own weight and taxpayers can no longer afford to prop it up.

“In the current fiscal year, the health care costs for state and local employees and retirees accounted for a staggering eight percent, or $2.36 billion, of the state budget. When it comes to pensions, the entire system is estimated to be underfunded at upwards of $34 billion because we are paying out more than we put in.

“Nationally, state and local government employers spend 72.8 percent more on employee benefits than private sector employers. Similarly, the average state employee contributes 12 percent to their healthcare premiums while private sector employees contribute, on average, 22.6 percent.

“These mounting statistics make it clear that our present system is no longer sustainable. The reforms approved today will enable us to fulfill our promise to provide a dignified retirement for our hard-working, full-time career public servants while creating the long-term, cost-saving changes needed to shore up our system for future employees.

“More importantly, these measures will relieve some of the enormous pressure being placed on property taxpayers.

“Come Monday, I am certain that my Senate colleagues will speak with a clear and singular voice and overwhelmingly pass each of these bills.”

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