Scutari And Pou: Benefits Reform Panel Roundtable Yields Interesting Ideas

TRENTON – During roundtable discussions held today, the Joint Legislative Committee on Public Employee Benefits Reform heard from numerous public employee unions and local government advocacy organizations during broad-ranging discussions that covered topics from two-tiered benefits systems to pension system funding to flexibility in choosing health care coverage.

The roundtable discussions took place as part of the panel’s continuing examination of pensions and health benefits provided to state, county, municipal, and school employees. The committee’s co-chairs – Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) – invited representatives from 14 groups to provide varying perspectives on the pensions and benefits and their impact on property taxpayers.

“As any homeowner who has received a property tax bill in New Jersey can attest, reforms to the system are needed and must address affordability while still providing a basic level of fairness,” said Scutari, one of the committee’s two co-chairs. “Some of the discussion today centered on autonomy and flexibility in the pensions and health benefits systems. These traits are desirable only insofar as they permit local governments and school districts to adopt innovative strategies to control costs, deliver quality services, and arrive at arrangements that reflect the will of the community.”

“The testimony and ideas from the various groups generated interesting discussion and some new perspectives on ideas the committee has been considering,” said Pou, the committee’s other co-chair. “Some of the recommendations and suggestions received today will require further review and may be incorporated into initiatives the committee puts forward as we move closer to our November 15th deadline.” The invited groups included: New Jersey Education Association (NJEA); Communication Workers of America (CWA); Association of Federal, State, and Municipal Employees (AFSME); Building Trades; Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA); International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE); New Jersey League of Municipalities; New Jersey Association of Counties; South Jersey Chamber of Commerce; School Boards Association; New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA); Garden State Coalition of Schools; and New Jersey Association of School Business Officials.