NJ Politics Digest: Would Sweeney Plan Help Schools Save?

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney.
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Senate President Steve Sweeney has a plan he says will provide big savings to school districts and their employees.

The state’s highest-ranking Democratic legislator said switching employees into a health insurance system already used by other state and local workers could result in $300 million in savings statewide, according to a report by NJ.com.

Sweeney said family coverage under the School Employees Health Benefits Plan costs $37,905, compared to $27,269 under the State Health Benefits Plan, according to the report. Employees at about 30 percent of school districts in the state are enrolled in the school benefits system, with the rest contracting with other providers, the report said.

Sweeney contends the school system hasn’t made the same cost-saving efforts that the state system has, forcing teachers enrolled in it to pay substantially more for coverage—a teacher earning $75,000 would pay about $3,280 more for the school plan.

Representatives of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s powerful teachers’ union, said that while it is willing to discuss ways to contain the costs of benefits, it’s opposed to moving teachers to the cheaper program, which might not cover things that are currently included in teacher contracts, according to the report.

The proposal is part of Sweeney’s ongoing efforts to find ways to cut the cost of government in New Jersey.

Quote of the Day: “The income metric says, ‘Hey, we’re an affluent state.’ But if you subtract out housing costs and cost of living, a good part of that supposed advantage disappears,” — James Hughes, a professor and a former dean of Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, on the cost of living in New Jersey.

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