Sweeney's proposal for pension, benefit reform will likely face opposition

David Madden
May 17, 2019 - 12:51 pm
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney

Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — There’s another push in New Jersey to change pension and benefit packages for government employees, and all signs point to another knock-down, dragged-out fight over it.

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Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester County), a veteran of the labor movement, has toured the state trumpeting his Path to Progress plan. 

Now, he’s filing 27 bills to make employee benefits more affordable.

“We have one of the most unfunded pension systems in the country,” he said. “We have one of the worst bond ratings in the country, and until we address these issues, we’re never going to get reform in this state.”

And not just on the benefit front either. But for now, he’ll press on in the upcoming budget battle in Trenton. His plan faces an uphill fight, like from members of the New Jersey Education Association.

“NJEA members are ready to be problem-solvers, but they refuse to be scapegoats,” spokesman Steve Baker said. “So if the solutions that are being proposed are simply to impose more cuts to further damage the economic security of people who work in our public schools — yes, they’re ready to stand up and they’re ready to fight.”

The package is also likely to face some opposition from fellow Democrats in the state Legislature, as well as pro-labor Gov. Phil Murphy. 

Sweeney and Murphy have been at odds on a number of fronts.

The governor said in a statement he’ll review the bills carefully but favors “partnership and collective bargaining rather than confrontation.”

Sweeney suggests he’s ready to bypass Murphy and put a referendum to voters if the legislative route doesn’t work.