TRENTON – State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford, said his pension and benefits reform bill will pass the Senate, although he won’t say how many Democrats are going to be with him.
He has “more than enough” votes, he said in a small press conference today, on what will be a “very emotional vote.”
The unions have tried to “intimidate people (and) not tell their membership the truth,” he said, but the reforms are moving forward anyway.
Watching a N.J. Education Association representative speak before the committee today, Sweeney said, “That health plan (the union) talked about that’s so great was legislated…These guys think that no one’s been around long enough (to remember).”
“This is a very difficult decision to make as a labor leader,” he said, noting that he understands that by tying both pension and benefits together in his legislation he has put his members in a difficult position.
“The health care’s the tough vote,” he said. “(But) you can’t just have easy votes…To put a pension bill on the governor’s desk and not the health care bill, you’re only serving one (sector) of the public.”
He gave Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), credit for doing her best to bring the unions to the table: “The Speaker worked her rear end off.”
He said a concession that was in the works to cap the lowest-cost family health care plan was torpedoed by labor. “The problem is the unions want the health plan in statute.”
He said if he continued negotiating with the unions, the reforms would never get done. “We would be talking to those unions for the next five years, if I was here,” he said. “We gave everybody a chance to come to the table.”
He shook off any worries that labor would be coming after him in his election in November. “If they want to turn this Legislature over to the Republicans,” he said, “that’s their decision.”