TRENTON – Despite massive protests by unions, the state Assembly passed a controversial bill to reduce future costs by changing the pension and health care benefits offered to public workers. The vote was 46-32, with 14 Democrats joining 28 Republicans to vote for passage.
According to the governor’s office, the pension changes will save over $120 billion over the next 30 years, while health benefit changes will result in an additional $3.1 billion over the next 10 years.
“Together, we’re showing New Jersey is serious about providing long-term fiscal stability for our children and grandchildren. We are putting the people first and daring to touch the third rail of politics in order to bring reform to an unsustainable system,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “We are fixing our pension and health benefit systems in order to save them and in the process bringing fiscal sanity to our state.”
Christie said that he will sign the landmark changes into law on Monday.
Under the bill, workers will have to wait longer to be eligible to retire. New members of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) Employees must work until age 65, and must work for 30 years before being eligible for early retirement. All employees will have to pay more towards their pensions and will see annual cost of living increases eliminated.
After their current contracts expire, workers will be expected to pay a share of their health insurance premium, instead of a percentage of their salary. This means that workers will pay a greater share of their benefits cost. Currently retired workers will not be affected by this change.
“Retirees who count on their pensions for a modest level of security after a lifetime of public service will suffer because of today’s vote,” said New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian. “NJEA will challenge these illegal actions in court. We cannot and will not allow this outrageous raid on retirees’ pension checks to stand. This pension raid would reduce many retired workers’ pensions by 40% or more by the end of their lives.”
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