the staff of the Ridgewood blog
New Brunswick NJ, Continuing his advocacy for the fiscal reforms needed to reduce costs for state and local government, Senate President Steve Sweeney today joined a policy forum to discuss the initiatives in the “Path to Progress” report that will produce savings and efficiencies for state and local government and will help avert the mounting crisis in public finances from overtaking the government’s ability to operate effectively.
Senator Sweeney spoke at the Garden State Initiative’s 2nd Annual Economic Policy Forum in New Brunswick.
“The proposals developed by the study commission are desperately needed to produce savings for state and local government,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Municipalities, school districts and taxpayers will realize the benefits of the proposals to help hold down property taxes and make local governments and school districts more efficient. These are needed to ease the burden on taxpayers, to have government serve the public’s needs and to allow businesses to operate profitably. ”
The conference’s general purpose was to discuss ways to reduce the size and cost of government in New Jersey and improve its effectiveness, to make the state more affordable and to increase our competitiveness.
Core recommendations developed by the bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup to produce cost savings include the merger of the high-cost School Employees Health Benefits Plan into the lower-cost State Health Benefits Plan, the creation of a hybrid pension plan, and a shift of employee healthcare coverage from Platinum to Gold level plans. Combining the two healthcare plans will save money at the local level and reduce costs for individual school employees. The merger could produce hundreds of millions in savings for local government and school systems, which will help hold down property taxes.
“The merger will result in teachers and taxpayers paying less while the employees continue to receive full health care coverage,” said Senator Sweeney. “Shifting healthcare coverage from the current ‘Platinum-Plus-Plus’ system to a Gold-level plan means that teachers and other public employees would save over $200 million that they are paying out of their paychecks.”
Senator Sweeney repeated his pledge that the Path to Progress legislative package will not require retirees to pay more for their healthcare coverage.
“New, innovative and forward-looking solutions are needed as a beacon for rational thinking and common sense,” said Regina M. Egea, the President of GSI. “The Path to Progress report is the product of thorough research and clear thinking to recommend the types of reforms to make New Jersey more affordable for residents and businesses alike. If we don’t make progress on the fiscal problems that confront the state, everyone will suffer the consequences.”
The Garden State Initiative is an independent research and educational organization dedicated to making New Jersey once again a place where families and businesses can thrive. GSI provides sound, fact-based policy analysis and practical solutions to some of New Jersey’s most pressing problems such as the cost of the entire NJ government as well as essential tax reforms.