Pension and Benefits Commission recommends Legislature not vote on judicial-retirement age increase until referendum held

TRENTON – The Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission recommended today that the Legislature hold off on voting for a bill to increase judicial retirement ages until after a referendum is put to the voters to weigh in on a change to the state’s Constitution about retirement ages.

A168, sponsored by Assemblyman Erik Peterson, (R-23), Franklin Township, would increase the statutorily mandated retirement age for judges and county prosecutors from 70 to 75. The bill would affect Supreme Court and Superior Court judges, as well as Judges of the Tax Court, Administrative Law Judges, and Judges of the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

Henry Matwiejewicz, the legislative coordinator at the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, said the bill is “more of a policy issue” and wouldn’t necessarily impact the pension system negatively.

“[The judges] may be getting pensions for up to five years less than they would have if they had retired at age 70,” Matwiejewicz said. “Plus, they’d be contributing to the pension [system] up until potentially age 75.”

The legislation, as written, would also impact any prosecutor in a county prosecutor’s office.

However, Thomas Hastie, a public board member, proposed that the commission support the legislation once the public, by way of a referendum, decides if they would like to change the mandatory retirement age across the board for all judges.

The change should be done by way of a referendum, board members argued, and Hastie called the bill “premature.”

“I do think this should be enacted simultaneously with what would be a change in the Constitution,” said Mark Krane, another board member.

Public safety officials’ retirement age extension opposed

S1714, sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bucco, (R-25), Boonton, would allow administrative members of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System to work until the age of 70. Currently, members must retire once reaching age 65. The employee would be allowed to keep working until age 70 if the local governing body gives approval before the employee reaches age 65.

“For a primarily administrative position, the physical rigors of the job are less than for other police positions, and longevity in the position is an asset, not a liability,” according to the bill’s statement. “Therefore, it is appropriate to give the governing body of the municipality the discretion to allow an effective employee to continue in service beyond the current mandatory retirement age.”

Matwiejewicz recommended that the commission oppose the bill because of a “slippery slope” concern. Matwiejewicz said these types of bills are common to provide exceptions for individuals.

Krane expressed concern about the broad nature of the bill, as it does not define which positions would be eligible for the retirement age. 

John Donnelly, the acting chair of the Commission, quoted a letter from Bucco, who said the bill could provide relief to the pension system. However, due to other concerns, the commission opposed the legislation.

  Pension and Benefits Commission recommends Legislature not vote on judicial-retirement age increase until referendum held