Sam Marcus | March 9, 2020 | NJ Advance Media |
New Jersey’s powerful teachers union has struck a deal with one of its fiercest political rivals to lower school district and employee health care costs.
The New Jersey Education Association and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Monday set aside their bitter grudge to announce plans to overhaul health benefits for school employees, which they estimate will cut the cost by more than $1 billion a year for teachers and school districts.
“This is a pretty huge announcement today that we’re coming up with over a billion dollars in savings,” Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said of the deal, which was first reported by NJ Advance Media. “This has been a long, long journey.”
The announcement marks a surprise twist in the long-running feud and a major leap forward in the state’s efforts to rein in employee benefit costs. With both Sweeney and the NJEA on board, the deal represents perhaps the clearest path yet to achieving a goal that’s vexed state leaders.
The Senate hopes to put the reform legislation on the governor’s desk by the end of the month, according to Senate officials.
At a Statehouse news conference, officials praised the deal for meeting the demands of both sides: reduced costs for taxpayers and lower premiums for teachers.
Under the proposal, the state would eliminate some existing health care plans currently available to teachers and introduce two lower-cost alternatives, called the New Jersey Educators Health Plan and the Garden State Health Plan.
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