the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Trenton NJ, Senate President Steve Sweeney says state would save hundreds of millions of dollars, while workers would make the same or even better pay because of expanded federal funding for unemployment benefits Sweeney called his furlough plan for state and local workers the “ultimate win-win.” Under the plan 100,000 N.J. public workers could be partially furloughed .
The plan to help state and local governments save millions of dollars by partially furloughing some of their workers during the coronavirus pandemic has easily cleared its first legislative hurdle.The key to the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and two other lawmakers is expanded unemployment benefits, which are being funded by the federal government in response to the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.
For many workers, the supersized benefits would allow them to collect the same or better pay even as they miss time at work, with the federal government picking up a large share of the tab. And since New Jersey taxpayers generally pay more to the federal government than the state receives back in federal funding, the sponsors say it offers the state a rare opportunity to buck that trend.
Members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed the legislation unanimously last Thursday, generating support from both labor and business groups during a hearing held using videoconferencing software because of the pandemic.
Sweeney called the bill the “ultimate win-win” in a statement issued after the hearing ended, and it is now on course to go before the full Senate next week. But it remains to be seen whether Gov. Phil Murphy will eventually sign on, especially as the state unemployment system is already being crushed with new benefits claims as the pandemic has continued into May.
Oddly enough among those offering praise for the legislation during Thursday’s committee hearing was Francine Pfeffer, associate director of government relations for the New Jersey Education Association(NJEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union. She said ensuring that any job-sharing furlough decision is made “between the union and the employer” was a key concern.
The Murphy administration is also floating a bill that would let New Jersey borrow up to $9 billion in bonds that mature in two years from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The legislation allows the borrowing to be paid back with increases in the state’s sales tax and property taxes.