TRENTON – The N.J. League of Municipalities and two prominent mayors on its legislative review board will testify Thursday in favor of the pension and benefit reform backed by leaders of the legislative and executive branches.
As Trenton prepares for Thursday’s maiden hearing on state Sen. President Steve Sweeney’s, (D-3), compromise reform bill, Bill Dressel, executive director of the League of Municipalities, issued a statement in support of the initiative.
“Since the passage of the 2 percent hard cap last July,” he said in an email, “nearly every municipality in the state has undergone a budget process without the overwhelming majority of the management reforms that were promised. Many have been forced to severely reduce vital services, including personnel reductions, and make other difficult and often draconian budget choices.
“As long-time advocates of pension and health benefit reform, needed to moderate one of the main cost drivers for municipal budgets, we are encouraged by reports that the Christie Administration, Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver are near an agreement on the much needed reforms,” Dressel said. “These costs are outside the control of municipal governments and serve to drive up local costs, which must in turn force cuts elsewhere in the budget, often to valued and vital public services.”
City of Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, co-chair of the League’s Management Reform Committee, stated, “Pension and health care reform are very difficult issues to tackle in a manner that both ensures the financial solvency of the pension system so it will exist in the future without over burdening municipalities and taxpayers. I applaud the efforts of those who would craft such legislation which would accomplish this while protecting our current retirees and grandfathering those eligible for retirement by not breaking our commitment to them.”
Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, the other committee co-chair, said, “Pension and health benefit reform must be done together. We do not want a repeat of last summer, when towns were given a 2 percent hard cap with the promise of management reforms to quickly follow and a year later we are still waiting.”
Dressel said the mayors will appear before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Thursday to speak in favor of the bill.