Commission backs bill barring pension collection if recipient takes job paying $15,000 or more

TRENTON – The Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission recommended approval Friday of a bill intended to prevent people from collecting their pension if they return to a public sector job that pays at least $15,000.

The bill, S2716, is sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-12), of Red Bank, and Sen. Steve Oroho, (R-24), of Sparta.

While the members approved the bill by a 5-2 vote, they said the bill could use clarification.

For example, Commissioner William Clarke pointed out that a pensioner could circumvent the bill by accepting multiple jobs that could each theoretically pay $14,999 or less.

“It leaves the door open for significant double-dipping,” Clarke said at Friday’s hearing.

To prevent that from happening, Clarke recommended that the $15,000 amount be applied as the “aggregate” as opposed to the amount applied to one position. The board approved that recommendation.

One dissenting member, Alfred O. Weller, said that while the bill is well-intentioned, its execution could be “badly flawed.”  While other members saw the bill as a mechanism that would compel towns to think “out of the box,” Weller said that could just as well tie their hands, since it could potentially limit their ability to hire talented workers due to the salary cap.

“It’s not clear this bill would encourage economic productivity in this state,” Weller said.

The members also expressed concern the bill doesn’t cover several types of positions where pensions are given, such as elected officials, business administrators and school superintendents.

However, when it came to recommending a list of positions to include in the proposed bill, as Commissioner John G. Donnelly suggested, a majority of the commission decided against it. They said it could make the bill less effective by singling out some jobs but not others.

Ultimately, though, Commissioner John Megariotis said the bill is a good first step that could, at the very least, start addressing the rampant problem of pension double-dipping.

The bill has been referred to the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. Commission backs bill barring pension collection if recipient takes job paying $15,000 or more