The senate voted 36-0 to pass three pension reform bills, despite a push against them from the state’s public workers unions.
Four senators did not vote: Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton), Ronald Rice (D-Newark), Shirley Turner (D-Lawrenceville) and Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park), who is battling cancer and has not attended to a session since announcing her diagnosis.
If the bills become law, public workers would have to contribute 1.5% of their salaries to their health care costs, sick leave payout would be capped at $15,000, retirement ages would increase and the pension system would be restricted to full-time employees, among other reforms.
A fourth bill that would introduce a ballot question amending the state constitution to mandate that the state pay into the pension system each year was not voted on today.
Although it was clear from the outset that the bill would pass (it had 23 sponsors and only needed 21 votes), Hetty Rosenstein, the state director for the Communications Workers of America – the largest public workers union in the state – wrote a letter to state senators last night urging them to reconsider.
“Please think carefully before you vote on Monday,” she wrote. “Our members – working and middle-class New Jerseyans — understand better than anyone that times are tough and our state is in trouble. But that is no excuse for sound bite legislation.”