TRENTON – Anthony Wieners, president of the state PBA, sat with his “brothers” from the fire and state trooper unions and explained why public safety employees are in better shape with pensions and have exceptional circumstances in regards to health care benefits than the other public sector unions.
Wieners picked apart state Sen. President Steve Sweeney’s reform bill, and gave a glimpse at an alternate pension reform bill, rumored to be ready for weeks, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20), of Union Township.
Of the Sweeney bill, Wieners said pension board independence only comes when the fund is at 80 percent funding. Although Wieners spoke against the measure, since the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) is already near 70 percent funding, it would affect the public safety unions less than other, less healthy state pension funds.
“To this day we have not seen a single fiscal analysis (of Sweeney’s bill),” he said.
He said the union representatives on the newly-constructed pension board should be elected, not appointed, even by union leaders.
By setting up further restrictions on new employees, he said, “This cut will create two classes of cops.”
He also asked that cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases be reinstated for low-earners who live off small pension checks.
“I have proposed a formula for COLA,” Wieners said in regards to the alternate bill.
Finally, Wieners said the Sweeney bill “destroys collective bargaining,” by mandating certain health care provisions.
The alternate bill, which Wieners really only hinted at and Cryan’s staff has not yet confirmed, provides “immediate property tax relief which this bill doesn’t,” the union leaders said.
He also asked if this meeting could be relocated to a larger venue. “We have thousands of our members who are outside who would love to come in here,” Wieners said. “Capacity 358; are you kidding me?”
Sarlo said as many of the protestors who want to come and speak on the bill are invited to do so: “Many of us believe in collective bargaining,” Sarlo said, but, “I don’t think changing the venue is an option right now.”
Union leaders chastised lawmakers for pushing forward on the bill, calling it disrespect for the legislative process and challenging savings estimates presented earlier in the hearing.