Governor Appoints Members to His New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission

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Governor Chris Christie announced appointments to his newly formed New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission August 8.  The commission is tasked with evaluating “how the state can create an affordable and sustainable retirement and health benefits system for New Jersey taxpayers, retirees and current and future public employees.”   A report is required by the group within 30 days of forming. 

The commission was established by Executive Order 161.  Specifically, the commission is to:

  • make recommendations regarding the goals and criteria for a sustainable retirement and health benefit system that recognizes the State’s desire to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce; courses of action regarding plan design changes to current pension and health benefits; and funding policies for the pension and health benefit systems that will have a high likelihood of allowing the State to achieve these goals; and
  • examine the history of the State’s existing pension and health benefit systems in order to understand what has put the systems in their current state; reform by other government entities; pension and health benefits provided in the private sector; and other factors it deems relevant in order to develop its recommendations regarding pension and health benefit reforms that will strengthen the systems’ financial standing with less cost to the taxpayers while providing public employees and retirees with an appropriate level of benefits.

The body is to issue recommendations in a report to the Governor with consideration to the following:

  1. estimates of future benefit payments, expenses, investment returns, funded status and funding requirements of the pension and health benefit system, including the impact of funding requirements on the State’s budget, using whatever assumptions and estimates, or ranges of assumptions and estimates, for economic environments and investment returns that the Study Commission determines to be appropriate;
  2. an examination of the competitiveness of the pension programs within a total compensation perspective available to participants in the plans compared to similarly situated employees and to New Jersey residents working in the private sector; and
  3. necessary constitutional, legislative, and regulatory actions required to implement the proposed changes.

The commission must consider the work already undertaken by the Treasury Department.  The nine members include the following individuals:

  • Thomas J. Healey, CFA, Partner, Healey Development LLC, former Asst. Sec. of the US Treasury for Domestic Finances under President Reagan. Mr. Healey will coordinate the work of the Study Commission.
  • Tom Byrne, managing member and founder of Byrne Asset Management; vice chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council
  • Raymond Chambers, philanthropist, UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals, founding chairman of the NJ Performing Arts Center
  • Leonard W. Davis, CFO, SCS Commodities Corporation, manager of private equity, technology, and natural resource companies
  • Carl Hess, Managing Director of The Americas for Towers Watson and former Managing Director of Towers Watson Investment business
  • Dr. Ethan Kra, Ph.D., Ethan E. Kra Actuarial Services, specializing in analyzing economic and accounting implications of financing strategies and vehicles for employee and executive benefits
  • Ken Kunzman, Partner, Connell Foley, co-Counsel since 1978 of the Pension and Welfare Funds for Locals 472 and 172 Heavy and General Laborers Fund of New Jersey
  • Larry Sher, October Three Consulting, Partner, consulting actuary and member of the senior leadership team for a full service, actuarial, consulting and technology firm that is a leading force behind the reemergence of defined benefit plans across the country
  • Margaret Berger, Mercer, consulting actuary and Principal for the Retirement Practice of a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments, with specific expertise in defined benefit plans, nonqualified plans and retiree medical and life insurance plans

More detailed bios on each appointee is available via the Governor’s press release announcing the appointments.