Scutari Says Wholesale Changes In Public Worker Benefits Needed

TRENTON – Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Employee Benefits Reform, today said significant changes in public worker benefits “moving forward” are needed to provide meaningful taxpayer savings.

Officials from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services today told the joint panel that it would be illegal to change pension benefits for public workers who have accrued five years of service because of a 1997 State law enacted by the Legislature. In addition, the OLS officials suggested there could be serious legal problems effecting pension changes for workers with less than five years.

“Clearly, we should focus on making wholesale changes in benefits moving forward,” said Senator Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset. “A multi-tiered system of benefits would allow us to honor our contractual obligations to current workers and still deal fairly with future workers.”

The OLS opinion submitted to the panel stressed the obligation to leave unchanged the pension benefits for those who had reached five years of service did not apply to health benefits.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll be taking a focused look at the health benefits provided to public workers so we can make practical reforms that will reduce the State’s financial burdens moving forward,” Senator Scutari said.