Sweeney: Move Pension Bills, Authorities Reform On Parallel Tracks

Local Government, School Budgets Can Use Savings Now

TRENTON – Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney today said that reforms to the way the state’s authorities, commissions and boards operate should move on a parallel track with the pension and benefits reforms that passed the Senate unanimously on Monday, ensuring that both can be swiftly enacted.

Sweeney said the first goal for legislators should be to see the pension and benefits reform package signed into law as soon as possible so towns and school districts can account for the anticipated savings in next year’s budgets.

“The most important thing must be to make these bills law so local governments can immediately begin to reap their benefits,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “School districts already are nearing the end of their budget process, and many towns are now beginning theirs. They need to know how they can budget now for achievable savings next year and beyond, especially where the cost of health care is concerned.”

According to an Office of Legislative Services review, county and local governments and school districts could save upwards of $310 million over the course of the next fiscal year by requiring employees to contribute 1.5 percent of their incomes towards their health benefits. Sweeney said those savings should not be delayed.

The Senate President says he agrees that reforms at the state’s authorities, commissions and boards also need to be enacted. But he noted that any Assembly amendments to the pension and health benefit reform bills would require the measures to return to the Senate for concurrence votes, delaying their ultimate enactment.

“The Senate is prepared to tackle the job of reforming the authorities,” said Sweeney. “Senator Loretta Weinberg has taken a leadership role in this. Let’s get the recommendations of the joint session to the Governor’s desk now. On a parallel track, the Legislature can work with the Governor to take a hard look at the authorities and adopt the necessary reforms.”