AP NEWS

Top Democrat unveils plan to revamp pensions, merge schools

May 16, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Traditional pensions would end for many New Jersey public employees who are new hires or have less than five years’ experience under proposed legislation announced Friday by the state’s top Democratic lawmaker.

The pension proposal was one of more than two dozen measures announced by Senate President Steve Sweeney, along with Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Democratic Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo and Republican Senate Budget Officer Steve Oroho.

Sweeney called the overall plan a “path to real, sustainable tax relief in a state with the highest property taxes, the second-largest unfunded pension liability, the second-worst credit rating, and the fifth-highest overall tax burden in the nation.”

The legislation was developed by the bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup of economists, academics, government experts and legislators.

A measure would protect the current pension of teachers and non-uniformed state, county and municipal employees who have five or more years on the job. New hires and those with less than five years’ experience would have a hybrid, defined benefit plan on their first $40,000 of income, and a plan more akin to a 401(k) on income above $40,000.

Another measure would shift all public employees from platinum-level health plans to gold-level plans, which would require them to pay more for their premiums. Payments for unused sick time would be capped at $7,500.

Under another measure, the mayor or chief executive of a municipality would be required to produce an independent cost-benefit analysis to submit with any application for a long-term property tax exemption, under another measure.

Some measures push for more shared services. County school superintendents would be required to develop plans to merge elementary school districts into K-12 regional systems. They would also have to set up pilot programs to allow for the establishment of countywide school districts.

Another measure would give funding to counties to appoint coordinators to expand shared services.