New Jersey lawmakers have approved a broad rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees. The New Jersey Assembly passed the bill 46-32, despite the cries of thousands citizens protesting just outside of the State House.
The Assembly voted Thursday evening, three days after the state Senate’s 24-15 vote on the benefits bill. New Jersey’s governor, Charlie Christie, a Republican, is expected to sign the legislation into law Monday.
Governor Christie released the following statement in regards to his impending signature:
“Together, we’re showing New Jersey is serious about providing long-term fiscal stability for our children and grandchildren. We are putting the people first and daring to touch the third rail of politics in order to bring reform to an unsustainable system.”
In addition to raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 for pension-eligible state workers, the bill also increases contributions by public employees to their health care and pension plans, suspends cost-of-living increases to retirees’ pension checks and curbs the unions’ contract bargaining rights.
The legislation reflects the deepest cuts in state and local costs ever.
Those in favor of the bill expect more than $132 billion in savings over the next 30 years. However, those who voted against the resolution say the legislation was driven by other motives. “This bill is not about savings; it is about breaking the backs of the hard-working men and women of this state,” said Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., a Middlesex County Democrat, at the beginning of the Thursday’s session. He added, “I challenge everyone in this chamber today: How many have even read the full 124 pages of union-busting activities?”
The New York Times reports that a procession down State Street in opposition of the bill included a hearse draped with a banner saying “The Soul of the Democratic Party.” Organizers with bullhorns led the crowd in chants of “We’ll remember in November!” and “Kill the bill!”
This legislation will no doubt have an effect come November.
For those outside the Garden State who are wondering where they’ve heard the name Charlie Christie, the New Jersey governor was recently in the news for refusing to pay up for his personal use of government property — a police helicopter he used to attend his kid’s baseball game.