Senate Pension & Health Benefits Bill Vote

Coverage of the Senate’s vote on a bill that will significantly raise public workers contributions to their pension and health benefits. Unions are vehemently opposed because the bill will limit collective bargaining over health care. The bill is also being heard in the Assembly.

NEWS STORY: Senate Votes on Pension & Health Benefits Reform Bill

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23 Responses to Senate Pension & Health Benefits Bill Vote

  1. Stephanie Reid says:

    I am a County Correction Sergeant. The price of gas, food, milk and even water has rose. Taxes are through the roof, the highest in the country, in this state – which I am forced to pay. But I have not received a raise in over 3 years now. Struggling just to keep up with the cost of living; not live comfortably, but keep from drowning and losing all that I have worked for. Governor Christie and his “croonies” are poor excuses for New Jersey leaders. How would they feel if they had to worry about who was going to keep the murders, robbers, pediphiles, etc away from THEIR families? What will they do if THEIR house is on fire and no one responds to help save THEIR loved ones? How will they feel if THEIR children go to school and fail or come out the dumbest in their class because of poor quality teachers? Gov. Christie and his “croonies” need to think about some of this because people are not going to give 100% when they’re taking 75% of it away to keep their pockets full and fat. I realize that their political seats are not up for election just yet, but I sure hope that Gov. Christie, Senator Sweeney and all the other “croonies” that are putting the hard working people of the middle class in the poor house remember one thing – when their re-election comes up, WE WILL REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!!!!!

    • Are you kidding me? says:

      You are so right. We will remember in November and each election to come after. I have 19 years and 7 months in the pension. I am royally done for if this bill is passed. Like you, we have not received a rase in several years. We are now under a dictatorship not a democracy. This is union busting in the worst and most obvious form. Public employees are not “greedy” as once mentioned. We are hard working, underpaid, dedicated employees. Just because they cannot adjust their spending, we are the fall guys carrying all of the burden. We, the middle class, pay the majority of the taxes while the rich get more breaks. The only ones who are backing any of this are the rich. The voice of the middle class has been bought by the clinging of coins.

    • frank says:

      you can tell your profession by your incorrect grammar – get over it – the State is broke

  2. Phil says:

    After the public worker benefit/ pension reform will Governor Christie address that all public works projects have to “prevailing wage” costing NJ taxpayers for say Iron workers in Atlantic county over $70.00 an hour per worker for pay and benefits. By letting the public bids go out without the “prevailing wage” clause I believe more road construction projects will be able to be completed.

    • Mike says:

      I have worked as a Davis Bacon Compliance officer for several federal projects in New York City and some of the rates workers recieve are pretty astronomical. (Davis Bacon is the name of the Federal version of the law.)

      While I agree that these fees are a bit rediculous, labor costs (in direct compensation) only amount to about a 1/10 to 1/5 of the actual cost of the project. (While material, fuel, equipment and other associated costs make up the rest.)

      An organization that sued the federal government over the law estimates that repleaing the law would save (federal) taxpayers a billions a year. So state construction cost savings would be proportionately much less.

  3. Ryan Postman says:

    This bill is going through too fast with not enough collective bargaining occurring. I have spoke to my legislators and they have not even had time to read the bill. I was informing them about some of the aspects of the bill. Legislators should have been spending this entire weekend working together , a study session if you will, to understand all the ins and outs of the bill. Something does need to be done to fix the problem but this fix is too quick and too unclear for the citizens of New Jersey to understand.

    We need more time to find an appropriate solution.

    Nothing this important should been done hastily .

  4. john says:

    It’s time for the Democrats to remove Sheila Oliver from her perch and put someone in charge that will fight the governor and not find the safest way to agree with him. This legislation does nothing to fight the rising costs of healthcare, it only herds a large pack of sheep to feed the insatiable profit driven hunger of the ravenous insurance companies.

  5. Jo Willie says:

    any reduction in any rights of workers Of USA is a sin: It is ridiculous at at time when all workers are hurting; What idiots would advocate taking away from Union Workers? Workers, Union or not all benefit from rights. Now workers need to regain what they are seeing taken away. Together all workers need to begin to move ahead again. Any society like ours can only grow if the special talent: Labor is moving ahead. It’s so simple but we are being led astray by a minority of citizens who will benefit by the decline of a majority of our society.
    Joseph – One Stop Employment Counselor A Lay off due to Christie cuts!

  6. angela gould says:

    Senator BEck is speaking about the employees of Marlboro receiving a 4.5 % raise and keeping full family benefits…well…Senator Beck did not bother to comment about the 189 lowest paid employees of Marlboro who received a 33% cut in salary and total loss of family benefits. as well as paying 1.5% into their individual benefits. How does she justify the changes shes proposing when it will leave these employees with absolutely nothing. The situation is not as cut and dry as she proposes.

  7. secondclass american says:

    so public workers are officially second class citizens now… groovy… i’m moving to afganistan… at least there you know where you stand

  8. Elmer J. Graham Jr. says:

    Our beautiful, Garden State of New Jersey is in a fiscal mess.There is NO EXCUSE for this.As citizens of New Jersey,we all need to sacrifice a little.Elmer J.Graham Jr.,Keyport.

  9. william banks says:

    As a 55 year old employed in the private sector, I have not received a raise since July, 2006. My salary has been reduced 38% since then, the coverage benefits provided thru our health insurance plan have continued to be cut with our premiums increasing yearly, I have no pension plan, a profit sharing plan that has not had a contribution in five years. I am fortunate to remain employed. This is what has occured in the private sector. How can we continue to support your benefits when we can barely support ourselves? Once retired or out of work, we are forced to leave the state due to the high costs and taxes. Without public benefit reform, who will be left to pay your health care and pensions?

    • Observer10 says:

      Do not blame public workers if your private sector employer has taken advantage of, perhaps even abused you. Many private sector employers used to offer decent pension/retirement plans to their employees in the past. Blame the CEOs in this country who continue to line their own fat pockets at the expense of the middle class worker. Their salaries have continued to grow grossly out of proportion to the average American worker’s salary over the past several years. You may also want to consider laying some blame on the Republican lawmakers and Wall Street, both of whom have made it look like public sector workers are to blame for the financial crisis in this country, while much of the blame should really be placed on them. Public workers and their unions have worked hard to maintain their pensions and benefits, and while there may be a few that have abused the system, most are only getting what they have worked hard to earn. Don’t be jealous or direct your anger at them, but place it where it rightfully should be directed…at those that really don’t give a damn about the middle class.

    • Scott says:

      I couldn’t agree more William. I am employeed in the private sector and have not received a raise since 2008. No pension and we have had to pay more towards our medical benefits every year while our deductables and co-pays continue to increase. These public workers just don’t get how fortunate they are.

  10. Reeta K says:

    I’m a state employee with 32 yrs and also has not received a raise for many year’s. In this generation people only degrade the hard working state worker’s and talk about how greedy they are….. Then they will start complaining about getting poor service ,the public will complain loudly… Think about how you wish this… Then wish that….I want that police officer come when I need help and that firefighter to come to my rescue when I need them..I want that correction officer to make us safe from the bad people.. I want that teacher to teach my child the right way…….And then will not able to service the public because they are unstaff staff………and under-paid………….I know that the taxes in nj will only go up not down……………………….The food and other item’s we use everyday will only go up…………and our pay will go down down down……………..I hate to see what nj will be in 10yrs…NJ will still be broke …………..

  11. Robin says:

    The fact that Senate President Sweeney, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, and other Democrats are pushing this legislation is a fundamental betrayal of democratic principles. This bill in one fell swoop will end the collective bargaining of health benefits, raise employee contributions, limit access to hospitals outside of NJ, and also weaken pension funds by eliminating a COLA (Cost of LIving Allowance.) They are destroying the hard fought gains of organized labor and turning back the clocks by a number of decades. They do this at a time when the top 1 percent of the wealthiest New Jerseyans have seen a cut in their income tax. The property taxes in this state along with most taxes in NJ reflect a larger percent of the income of the poorest of our citizens along with middle income New Jerseyans. Gov. Christie is increasing the burden on working and poor families while giving tax breaks and giveaways to the wealthies individuals and corporations.

  12. jt says:

    if only if the state made there payment in the pension like they should have we would never been in this mess.they the state havent made payment to the pension for ten years they allso take money out of th pension to pay for other projects like witman did with motor vehicles .that was funded withpension money .i just would like to know out of all the billions of dollars taken out .why was it not put back in.police and fire fighters all ready pay 8.5 into our pensions been paying that for 20 years now.for the men and women in law enforcement that work week ends and hollidays and have very bad hours.what do we have to show for our hard work,nothing

  13. Dianne Shatin says:

    The State is broke, but do you know why? It has zero to do with the public sector workers for the State of New Jersey. We are convenient scape goats hiding the huge elephant you all will eventually be responsible for.

    You think your property taxes are capped at 2.4%. You made a faustian bargain. Remember, there were two exemptions to that cap: 1. Debt and 2. Capital Infrastructure/Construction

    Let’s just take debt. What does this mean? For starters, every day NJ tax payers shell out $20 million a day just on the Interest Rate Swaps, or Derivative, the State of NJ owes Wall St. Prior to the entrance of Wall St. cronies into NJ government and its influence by way of State Treasurers and Pension Fund Managers, NJ had a Pension Fund among the top three best managed funds. Wall St. raiders came after California, New Jersey, and Illinois like starving vultures. Various variable heretofore unknown Wall St. financial instruments were introduced to NJ municipalities, school districts, State pension funds, State Investment council, and all of the Authorities empowered to issue debt.

    Mind you, was there any oversight whatsoever since Governor Tom Kean’s outstanding leadership and management of the State of NJ? The resounding answer echos throughout the land NOOOOOOO.
    The shenanigans and corruption are so deep and thick and involve Governor’s and their minions and their Wall St and their Public/Private Sector buds it is worse than unpeeling the layers of an onion.

    In total oblivion, either neglect, ignorance, or intentionally looking the other way, huge sums of money became available through Bond Houses to be paid back on terms that would make loan sharks BLUSH, and most New Jerseyans enter treatment for High Blood Pressure.

    What is wrong however, is the notion being propagandized at every turn by the Administration and many throughout the State of NJ, that somehow the problem is caused by public workers and the solution must be shouldered by public workers. The problem has zero to do with public sector workers and the austerity measures the NJ legislature is so kean on imposing is nothing more than making public service employees the whipping boy of the spineless legislature and spineless, arrogant, bully Governor as it is easy for them do do because one again, they have no idea the impact of major salary reductions, exponential increases in lousy healthcare plans (we are being held hostage to shitty plans), and huge increases into the Pension Fund that is so poorly managed with the corruption of Wall Street influencing gigantic financial investment decisions every minutes of every hour of every day. Under Corzine, the Pension Fund LOST $20 billion….of OUR MONEY.

    My point: 1. A specific group, public sector employees have been made the scapegoat.
    2. Our money is worth far less today than it was ten years ago. Weak dollar.
    3. We did not create this problem nor did we contribute to it… in fact, over the past years since Whitman there have been many givebacks in salaries and health benefits.
    4. 30% of our salaries off the top go to State and Federal taxes. we have little to work with.
    5. Justice is served only when those directly guilty, guilty by association, and guilty by negligence are brought to justice and those wronged made whole.

    We the State employees of the Great State of New Jersey are public servants… we serve the people of the State of NJ. We only ask that you examine all of the facts prior to rushing to judgement and unthinkingly jump on the blame game meme bandwagon and look at the numbers; look at those Authorities empowered by the NJ Legislature and the Governor to Issue ongoing levels of debt, thereby saddling New Jerseyans today, tomorrow, and into the future, strangling tax payers. Start investigating these Authorities; the Commissioners; their gigantic staff and the salary of same and decide if you think the NJ Legislature and the NJ Governor should strip all of these Authorities of their power to issue debt and/or before these entities may issue debt, require it go before the voters of the State of NJ for a vote. After all, should you not have a right to decide the burden of indebtedness of the State for the purposes identified?

    In closing press your legislators and the Governor to freeze for the undetermined freeze ANY additional debt issuance by any governmental unit, school district, and any and all authorities currently empowered to issue debt.

    New Jersey State employees are more than willing to help the State during these tough budgetary time.
    Our health benefit plan we put on the table would have saved the State $200 million. To us Collective Bargaining is at the heart of management/labor relations. Tyrranny and dictatorial fiat on not the American way and New Jersey public service employees will stand up to these tactics and never surrender our
    rights nor our dignity to tyranny by any other name.

    May God Bless the Great State of New Jersey and the Fantastic and Righteous People of this Great State.
    They do deserve so very much better!

  14. Andrea says:

    After reading the above comments, I believe another conversation concerns what other efforts the State is making to reduce costs besides those impacting State workers. Maybe I’m not paying attention, but all I hear about — in all the media, not just this forum — relate to the cost-cutting efforts to State workers’ salaries & benefits. What else is the State doing to cut costs? Can anybody refer me to a source that can explain those efforts?

    Having said the above, and being a former private sector worker who’s been paying some or all of my health insurance premiums for close to 20 years, public workers need to face the fact that health care is too expensive to be borne completely by the taxpayers. They need to share in the cost.

    When compared to what some private sector workers have been paying for years, 1.5% of salary is not excessive. Private sector workers also have had to endure layoffs, pay cuts, pension reductions, higher health care contributions, etc. to maintain their companies’ profitability. And, the argument certainly can be made that they have been unfairly burdened while top executives continue to prosper.

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that health care costs is a monster that we all have to grapple with — an expensive monster that the taxpayers of NJ can’t continue to subsidize for State workers.

    Maybe that’s another conversation to be taken up — does our leadership have the will, political and otherwise, State and Federal — to get a handle on the exhorbitant cost of decent health care and the rising cost of maintaining a decent standard of living for the middle class? Maybe this is the real conversation we need to be having.

    Will we ever get a break?

  15. d.shatin says:

    Here is the problem. Most everyone is hurting badly. People who work for a living and primarily live off of the wages they earn regardless of private or public sector and finding their earnings horribly diminished; the value of their homes staggering less than what they paid; their property taxes skyrocketing; or they have or are facing foreclosure. In this moment we share together we are suffering a decline in our standard of living I know I have not experienced in 59 years of my life.

    Everyone on both sides or all sides are correct. Property taxes are the highest in the country; professional workers have been screwed left, right, and center in too many ways to mention. We are living in such a time of economic volatility, anger, resentment, fear, and anxiety are palpable in the air we breathe.

    With respect to healthcare costs: everyone is correct. The elephant in the room is the exponential increase in healthcare costs that have pushed us to the breaking point. Period. Just like food and water, at certain points in our lives is crucial for life, all things being equal. In uterus surgery can now be performed on the heart of a fetus prior to birth to correct structural problems with the heart, for instance. Without amputating a gangrene leg of a diabetic, the person will die from the gangrene. Just a couple of examples.

    In the case of healthcare costs our Federal and State politicians and regulators, as well as the Judiciary have failed the American people; in every State of our Union, including New Jersey. The amount of money individuals who have been laid off from a corporation, for instance, but quality for COBRA, are paying $20,000/yr if not more for the premium along. This is insanity. Healthcare costs delivered in the USA are the highest in the world, and I would add, it is NOT due to Doctors or those who provide us with outstanding care but the hugely inflated prices of anything related such as walkers, bandages, hoses, tubing, oxygen delivery machines, and of course let us also add here to astronomical out of this universe prices for medication.

    It is insane. Period. And I have no desire for the people of the State of New Jersey who are hurting, whose families are financially hurting, to ‘subsidize’ me, a State employee. We are all losing more each day. Those that have the power and authority to correct this situation instead battle and debate ideology turning one group against the other, i.e. private vs public, tax payer vs state worker. Instead of stepping up and exercising leadership they spew propaganda and foolishness. At the end of the day noone, not even our imperial governor is willing on behalf of the people of the great State of New Jersey, to bypass; step over; or kill the nexus between politicians, huge corporate healthcare providers and business and industry campaign finance contributions instead of being mired in it like so much quick sand.

    Today in the State of New York, Governor Cuomo sat down at the bargaining table with the largest state employee union and successfully negotiated the savings for the State he had targeted, successfully. Our Union, CWA, months back and contracted an actuarial firm, non partisan, to look at the health benefit plans for State employees and to develop options and the a plan that would produce savings of $250 million over ten years for the State. The Governor refused to look at the plan. The sponsor of the bill that was voted on last night stood up in the Assembly and addressed his colleagues claiming ‘the other side has presented NO PLAN OF THEIR OWN’. This was on NJN. Not a word was mentioned about the Plan that CWA DID put on the table for consideration. While the ideological bullies attack each other, healthcare becomes less accessible for all of us with each passing day.

    Now, if you are interested in seeing where huge debt is issued constantly,I would recommend you check out the NJ Turnpike Commission website. While they have tons of improvement projects as well as new contruction projects to ease the flow of traffic, I was pretty surprised to read how proud they were due to the increase in tolls in effect and the future increase in tolls that were approved, their credit rating had so improved they could NOW issue even MORE DEBT I understand the frustration, anger, annoyance, and down right irritation at ‘subsidizing’ state employee’s health benefits. But the take backs on healthcare and the mandated increase in pension contribution, where there is no guarantee at all the pension fund managers are wisely handling the fund (we lost $20 bi under Corzine due to the Alternative Investment requirement, i.e high risk investing/big losses! and billions lost to Lehman two weeks before it crashed) personally I will loose $8,000 annually. What you all need to look at will be your property taxes to see if in fact they will go down. I wager a quarter they will not as the huge debt issued by all kinds of debt issuing authorities and commission will continue to rise and debt and capital construction are costs exempt from the 2.5% cap.

    Let’s work together to demand accountability and at least get the Governor to freeze all further debt issuance by these authorities and commissions who continue to increase NJs debt burden every minute.

  16. d.shatin says:

    Back to Andrea, I forgot, sorry. We will go from paying 1.5% of our premium to paying 30% of our premium and we have no idea how much our premium will cost. I think you would agree this is a rather dramatic increase especially for those with families with kids and so on. To make such a draconian increase while reducing our salaries by 6%, never again a COLA, and mandating increase contribution into a pension fund where decision makers are too often influenced by partisan cronies (D or R), it is like throwing hard earned money away!

    If and when I find a website that sets forth all of the ways the Executive is seeking to reduce the costs and tax burden to New Jerseyans I would be glad to pass it along! Thank you.

  17. d.shatin says:

    Until the USA puts an end to globalization of our work force here and outsourcing our jobs everywhere else in the world using our tax dollars to train people in places like Sri Lanka in IT!; and until those companies with ‘brands’ we all grew up with who defected to cheap slave labor in China, exporting this low quality garbage back to us so we can pay top dollar for them, are no longer recognized nor protected as US corporations, things will only get worse.

    We have the unique opportunity to push back and reverse this trend downward to serfdom to the self annointed ruling class. An economy cannot survive 70% dependent on consumption. When I was growing up we produced goods for the world! We manufactured goods everyone wanted and needed.
    A nation cannot be sovereign if dependent on others for our survival. Our pols did this to us. We can reverse it in spite of the.

    • Andrea says:

      Hello Diane:

      Now I’m really confused. Is the State asking for 1.5% of earnings from workers to help pay for health insurance or 1.5% (or 30% (Yikes!) as the case may be) of the cost of the premium?

      Diane, you make several good points and if I offered my thoughts on each and every one of them, we’d be here for days.

      In particular,, your point is well taken about the debt that the various State authorities have taken on that will saddle us and future generations with huge obligations for many years to come.

      And, as you so eloquently point out, there’s the fundamental issue of just plain unfairness that’s plaguing our country, in particular, the middle class. Such as outsourcing jobs to foreign countries — both in the manufacturing and service sectors — so that we are now living in an economy based disproportionately on consumption, like a herd of pigs at a trough. Pigs who are in debt up to their eyeballs, no less.

      Debt encouraged by Wall St., the big credit card companies (in many cases, one and the same), consumer goods manufacturers and a government which failed to see this dangerous trend and/or do anything to control it. I’m all for the free market system, but the system we have now is out of control and the only weapon in our arsenal is ourselves.

      You know something is drastically wrong when the President tells you to go out and spend in order to get the economy going! Remember that little speech by Bush during the Meltdown of ’08? He didn’t say save your money, invest and encourage your goverment to do the same. No, you must go out and buy a new flat-screen TV! Or a new gas-guzzling SUV! Or some other symbol of American overconsumption.

      Our own discipline, sacrifice and knowledge that if we don’t make the effort in our own lives and, more importantly, exert pressure on our lawmakers to rein in an out-of-control economy and culture based on greed, excess and the need for instant gratification (and a few other human failings), our belovedl America will fall into complete ruin….with the middle class at the bottom of the heap, asking ourselves “how on earth did this happen?”

      I know this sounds a bit melodramatic, but there are times when I really do feel this way and today is one of those times. Can somebody say something that will cheer me up?

      Thanks for listening.

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