Senator Joe Pennacchio, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and a Prime-Sponsor of the pension and health care benefits reform measure, issued the following statement regarding the Senate passage of S-2739.
“Every one acknowledges that the State Pension system is in serious financial trouble. In fact, in 2005 then Governor Codey ordered a study on the viability of the state’s pension system by a task force headed by Philip Murphy. The commission recommended sweeping and fundamental changes to the state’s pension system. We did nothing.
“In 2006 Governor Corzine ordered a special summer session on property tax reform. One of the committees focused on pension and health benefits reform. They too issued a report that recommended far-reaching and comprehensive pension and health benefits reform. Still we did nothing.
“By some estimates the state’s pension system will default by the end of this decade. That’s it, empty, nothing left for retired or soon to be retired hard-working, rank-and file-state employees.
“Future state payments into the pension funds will be far and away greater than what was put into the system over the last 20 years. The contributions will also be contractually guaranteed, state workers will be able to challenge any no-payment in court.
“We can no longer delay; we must take immediate steps to rescue the pension and health benefits systems for those employees. The current and pension and health benefits system is unsustainable it is built on a foundation of sand.
“This fix will guarantee the solvency of the system. But we must find the courage to move forward and implement these changes.
“The worst possible option is to continue to do nothing. Instead, this bill will require small, incremental sacrifices.
“New Jersey’s taxpayers are the most overtaxed in the nation. It is vitally important that they are protected.
“Some opponents of this measure will say that the health benefits portion of this bill must be negotiated. The opponents will argue that health benefits have never been legislated. That is a patently false statement.
“Health benefits for teachers, police officers and firefighters have all been guaranteed by statute—not collective bargaining. Most if not all of the state mandates on health insurance have been legislative not negotiated.
“This bill is a fair, honest, balanced and measured solution to a problem that must be resolved. I would not put my name on this bill if I thought otherwise.”