Senate Panel Advances Sweeney – Kean Bill To Ban Raids On Worker Funds

TRENTON � The Senate Labor Committee today approved a Senate resolution sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney and Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean Jr. to authorize New Jersey voters to permanently ban raids on employer and worker-generated State funds.

The measure, SCR-60, passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee. The entire Labor panel signed on as co-sponsors of the measure.

�Voter-approval of this resolution will let people and their families know that these funds, paid for by business owners and workers alike, will be there for them when needed,� said Senator Kean, R-Union, Essex, Somerset and Morris. �This is good for business and good for workers.�

�For years, the Unemployment Insurance Fund has been a prime target of multi-million dollar raids whenever the budget comes up short somewhere,� said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. �This (resolution) will give voters the chance to end the raids so worker funds are used only for the purposes for which they were created.�

The proposed resolution would ask voters to constitutionally guarantee that funds set up for unemployment, disability and other employee issues be used just for those purposes. The Senate Leaders said their bipartisan resolution would seek voter approval for an amendment to the State Constitution that would require any state funds generated by assessments on wages of workers can only be used for the purposes for which they were created such as unemployment, disability or workers� compensation.

�Over the last 20 years, literally billions of dollars have been raided from these funds by both Democrats and Republicans to either balance the State budget or pay for whatever emergency of the moment arose,� said Senator Sweeney. �This (resolution) will empower voters to ensure the integrity of these funds.�

�Our goal is to enable the people of New Jersey to get involved in restoring our State�s fiscal credibility,� said Senator Kean. �If workers and business owners are contributing their money for a specific purpose, the State should keep its hands off those funds.�

The proposed amendment seeks voter approval to restrict use of the funds and any investment income from them solely to the employee benefits for which they were created.

�The proposed amendment dedicates all contributions collected by the State from any employee, employer or insurer for any fund or program established to provide employee benefits, including, but not limited to the unemployment compensation fund, the State disability benefits fund, and the Second Injury Fund, solely to the purpose … for which the program or the fund is established,� according to the proposed resolution.

Both Sens. Kean and Sweeney said they intended to pursue additional requirements that would reduce assessment rates for the worker funds once sufficient surplus levels are assured.

The proposal would place the constitutional question on the November general election ballot and, if approved by voters, would take effect on the next January 1st.