TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem released the following statement today, regarding the signing of the “Public Employee Pension and Benefits Reform Act of 2008.”
“The signing of this legislation reaffirms the Legislature’s commitment to protecting the benefits of the State’s current workforce. This new law is the product of a bipartisan effort to bring real pension relief to the hard-working men and women of New Jersey, and I’d like to thank the leadership, Senators Buono, Scutari, Kean and O’Toole and the rest of my colleagues in the Legislature for their help in crafting this legislation.
“As a union official, I have heard quite a few members tell me to ‘negotiate, not legislate.’ Unfortunately, the irresponsible acts of the legislature and union leaders in the 1990’s , along with additional changes in legislation in 2001, which were done without any real dollars to cover the cost of the enhancements, have put the State in a financial bind. These irresponsible decisions placed the State’s pension system in a financial crisis, and it would be absolutely unfair to ask taxpayers to shoulder the additional costs.
“As elected officials, we are responsible for looking at the entire picture. We have to do what’s best for the taxpayers, not just now, but for the future as well.
“Change is not always welcome, but sometimes it is necessary to ensure longevity. Through this law we are making sure that the pension system will be around for the hard-working residents to whom it has been promised. We are doing a great thing.”
The Senators’ bill, S-1962, is a compilation of six bills that were initially introduced individually. The bill:
• Raises the minimum retirement age for new hires to receive full benefits from 60 to 62. This would only apply to new employees.
• Changes the eligibility criteria for new members of the TPAF and PERS from $500 and $1500, respectively, to $7,500. The $7,500 would be increased each year by the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This would only apply to new employees.
• Prohibits out of state pension credit purchases from counting toward New Jersey post retirement medical benefits. This would only apply to new employees.
• Allows the State to provide employees with an incentive to waive State health benefits if eligible for outside coverage. This would only apply to new employees.
• Lowers the number of paid holidays for State government employees from 13 to 12, by removing Lincoln’s Birthday from the list of state holidays. This provision would take effect after the collective bargaining agreements or current contracts which currently cover many Executive Branch employees expire.
• Places in the law a requirement that local government employees work at least 20 hours per week to qualify for State health benefits. This would only apply to new employees.
The bill was approved (31-8) by the full Senate on June 23, 2008.