Despite slim Democratic support state Senate President Stephen Sweeney is prepared to move forward with a plan to overhaul public employee pensions and health benefits before the end of June. Sweeney (Gloucester) has lined up a small group of Democratic senators who said they would be willing to join with Republicans to help ensure there are enough votes to enact sweeping changes to public employee benefits four sources familiar with the plan told the North Jersey News May 10.
The move signals that negotiations between Sweeney and Governor Christie over the shape of the changes are progressing consistent with recent statements by both last week (Governor & Senate President Indicate Moving Toward Agreement on Pensions & Health Benefits Changes May 2 2011).
Evidently lawakers have not been told of specific details but Sweeney had assured Democrats the plan to require workers to contribute more to health benefits would take into account their salaries consistent with Sweeney’s legislation S-2718 released back in February (Sweeney Unveils Legislation on Health Benefits for Public Employees February 15 2011).
Sweeney spokesman Chris Donnelly declined to comment May 10 on what steps Sweeney has taken or will take to enact the changes but he expressed confidence a bill would pass the Senate.
In recent weeks Sweeney has told a number of Democratic lawmakers he plans to package the health and pension proposals into one bill and is willing to move the legislation without the majority support of his own party the sources said. Because
Democrats hold 24 of the 40 seats in the upper house such a move would require votes from Republicans. Senate Republican spokesman Adam Bauer said May 10 that he could not comment because members have not seen a bill but he said “We would be happy to talk to Senator Sweeney if he is seeking our support.”
The measure would require approval in the Assembly and that body’s buy-in is unknown at this time.
With such important issues at stake NOW is the time for you to contact your local legislators!
While the Legislature is primarily focused on the State Budget hearing process committees including the State Government and Budget and Appropriation Committees will be considering the proposed pension and health benefits bills as well as other legislation. Due to pressure from the Governor and the Senate President the proposed pension and health benefits reforms could be fast-tracked for consideration in the midst of the current budget discussions.
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Source: North Jersey News