TRENTON � The New Jersey State Senate today elected new leadership for the 214th Legislature, unanimously choosing Senator Stephen Sweeney as president of the Senate.
Senate President Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem) pledged to work with the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Chris Christie as well as his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Senate to solve the daunting challenges facing New Jersey.
�Since Sept. 11, the past decade has been marked by struggle and hardship on many fronts,� Sen. Sweeney said. �A crippling recession has left far too many without the means to provide for the families. Taxes continue to rise. Opportunity has declined. And war has taken too many of our sons and daughters. But today, I envision the beginning of a new era that can return New Jersey to greatness and prosperity. Our goal can be nothing less.�
Sen. Sweeney said New Jersey needs �a total makeover,� starting with government coming up with ways to do more with less.
�I intend to work with our new Governor, as well as my colleague across the aisle, my good friend (Senate Minority Leader) Tom Kean, and his caucus, just as I will with my own colleagues,� he said.
Sen. Sweeney cited state employee pay and benefits as a major area of state spending that needs to be brought under control.
�A huge part of state spending goes to wages, benefits and pensions,� Sen. Sweeney said. �Our employee policies must reflect the real world. Our current pension and benefit system simply is not sustainable and it will have to be re-tooled.�
Also elected to new leadership posts today were:
� Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) as Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Buono is the first woman ever to be elected to the Majority Leader�s post. She has served in the Legislature for 15 years and had previously chaired the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
� Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex) as Senate President Pro Tempore. Sen. Gill was elected to the General Assembly four times before being elected to the state Senate in 2001. She is chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
� Kent Hicks as Secretary of the Senate. Hicks has been a reporter for New Jersey Network and has been the network�s South Jersey bureau chief.