the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Trenton NJ, A state Senate panel quickly advanced a Democratic bill that would give some elected officials bigger pensions, pushing through a vote on Thursday in about one minute and without any debate or public testimony.
The New Jersey Pension and Health Benefits Commission has stated that there are a combined $90 billion in unfunded liabilities for future pension and retiree healthcare benefits .
The bill known as (S3620) would allow certain elected officials, such as the outgoing Camden Mayor Dana Redd, to re-enroll in the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) even if they were removed due to switching from one elected office to another.
Effectively, the bill creates a special exemption that allows Redd to cash in on a bigger public pension at a time when public workers who are not politically connected have seen cutbacks to their benefits and a freeze in yearly cost-of-living adjustments for retirees since 2011.
The legislation is moving quickly because Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a Redd ally, has given the bill special status, allowing it to move forward without a customary review by a public body that scrutinizes the cost of pension and health benefits legislation and makes recommendations to lawmakers.
In a “hail Mary” the bill could be approved by the Assembly and Senate and signed by Gov. Chris Christie who is another Redd ally during the waning days of the lame-duck Legislature. A full vote in the Assembly and Senate could be held on the bill before the legislative session ends on Jan. 9.
A sea change in New Jersey politics is coming next year, not only because Gov. Chris Christie will be leaving office, but because many prominent voices in the Legislature will be gone or are shuffling into other positions.
A string of departures announced this year in the Assembly and Senate and the death of state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) will take a toll on the body’s institutional knowledge. And, depending on the outcome of the November elections, even more legislative leaders and longtime hands could be headed for the exit.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) likely will be ousted from the top job in the lower house by his fellow Democrats and replaced with Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), and there’s a chance Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) could lose re-election in his district to a Republican challenger backed by the powerful New Jersey Education Association.
The Key Players Leaving the NJ Legislature
By Max Pizarro • 09/12/16 5:12pm
The New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) PAC Operating Committee this past weekend voted in favor of beginning the process of screening 2017 candidates for governor and the legislature.
It’s probably safe to say that Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) doesn’t need to bother showing up for that process.
He’s identified in a leadership letter to NJEA members as the instigator of “betrayal,” for failing to secure a public payment pension question on the 2016 ballot, and then lashing out at the NJEA in a letter to law enforcement.