New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on bill S-2937 (Sweeney) June 16. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 9-4. The legislation is expected to be heard in the Assembly on June 20. NJPSA representatives Debra Bradley Director of Government Relations and Richard Klockner Director of Retirement Services urged the committee to retain collective bargaining for health benefits opposing the bills’ provision whereby employees would contribute an increasing percentage of their health benefits costs over the next four years by statute.
Bradley and Klockner told the committee that for a worker earning $95000 the new formula would mean an increase of 300% at the end of the four year phase-in. Health benefits have always been subject to negotiations. They told the committee that the sunset clause is not sufficient to mitigate the damage the end of collective bargaining of health benefits would cause over the four-year period after which time some workers could be paying upwards of 35% of their costs.
Bradley and Klockner also opposed the restriction whereby state workers would not be permitted to receive some healthcare services out of state.
The two told the committee that they agree with the provision that creates a contract right to pensions but said the proposal does not go far enough in ensuring the states meets its obligations with respect to its contributions.
In addition Bradley and Klockner opposed the elimination of cost-of-living increases (COLA) explaining the need for the increases especially among senior citizens. They voiced opposition to the proposed elimination of post-retirement medical benefits for employees who do not have 25 years of service.
In conclusion Bradley and Klockner told the committee they would be willing help formulate a better plan and expressed the fear that the proposed changes will negatively impact the future recruitment of teachers and other educators.
The vote on the legislation came after several hours of heated testimony. The panel released the bill by a vote of 9-4 with four Democrats joining with Republicans to approve the measure: Senator Jeff Van Drew (Cape May) Senator Teresa Ruiz (Essex) Senator Brian Stack (Hudson) and Senator James Beach (Camden).
The Chair of the Committee Senator Paul Sarlo Majority Leader Barbara Buono Senator Cunningham and Senator Greenstien voted no on the legislation – several voicing concern over the inclusion of the health benefits provision in particular.
The legislation will next move to the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday June 20. NJPSA will be testifying in opposition to the legislation.