TRENTON — Assemblywoman Donna Simon announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation aimed at stopping towns from illegally awarding taxpayer-funded pensions to part-time contractors and implementing other reforms recommended by State Comptroller Matt Boxer after his office revealed widespread improper participation in the state pension system.
“Placing independent contractors in the state pension system is wrong, illegal and steals significant dollars from taxpayers throughout the state,” Simon, R-Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex, said. “The Comptroller looked at a small sample of towns and school districts and found many examples of people who may have received illegal pension credits. It’s incredible to think of the abuse that exists in the other 1,000 towns and school districts in New Jersey.”
The Office of State Comptroller referred 202 pension enrollees in 58 towns and school districts to the Division of Pensions and Benefits for review and removal of improper pension credits. The questionable credits could cost taxpayers $1.9 million per year.
Sixteen of these enrollees are at or near the 25 years needed for lifetime state-funded health benefits, which could cost taxpayers another $300,000 in healthcare annually.
Simon’s legislation would require the Division of Pensions and Benefits compile a checklist for governments to use to certify the eligibility of pension enrollees with the presumption that a private professional is not entitled to state benefits.
Simon’s bill would take it a step further by assessing a fine against municipalities and school districts that do not follow the checklist.
“Local officials must have clear guidance on the law and strong penalties against ignoring it,” Simon said.
Other recommendations including stripping any credit that was previously awarded improperly and requiring municipalities seeking advice on this law to use an impartial attorney who does not have a personal interest in outcome.
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