Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Jersey Lawmakers Sanction State Employee Benefit Reform Package

A New Jersey state senate committee has approved a package of six reform proposals for pensions and health care coverage for future state employees.

The reform plan calls for the following steps:

  • pensions for future workers based on the average of their five highest years' pay, rather than the current three years;
  • raising the minimum salary to earn pension benefits to $5,000 from $1,500;
  • providing health benefits only to people working 35 hours a week;
  • basing pensions on one job only;
  • requiring workers with more than one public job to choose health coverage from one position only; and
  • banning the purchase of out-of-state pension credit to qualify for retirees' health coverage.

Lawmakers backing the reform efforts insist the changes are needed to turn around the pension system, which has an unfunded liability of more than $25 billion.

Joyce Powell, the President of the New Jersey Education Association, said lawmakers are using public workers as pawns and scapegoats for years of failure by the state to properly fund pensions.

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