Now that Chris Christie no longer operates as New Jersey’s governor, state lawmakers are looking to relaunch a pension management movement his replacement’s administration may be in support of.
The measure, known as Bill S-5, will spin off the $27 billion Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) from the state’s $78 billion system to a 12-member board of trustees. The new board will then be responsible with hiring its own executive director, actuary, CIO, and ombudsman.
“The reason that we are where we are today is not because of us and it’s not because of local government,” Eddie Donnelly, president of the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, said, reported by Northjersey.com. “It’s because of the reckless policies and enactments from state government, from the governor and the treasurer’s office.”
The website reports that although municipal and county group representatives opposed it, the managerial swap has received backing from four police and firefighter unions and was unanimously accepted by the Senate state government committee on Thursday.
Last year, then-Gov. Christie had vetoed a similar bill claiming that a management spinoff would allow labor unions to boost benefits, levied by taxpayers.
“Unfortunately, this bill goes too far and undoes significant portions of the bi-partisan pension reform legislation I signed into law in 2011, unduly jeopardizing the financial health of PFRS,” Christie said in the veto. “I understand that police and firefighters (and, for that matter, all current and future pensioners) have concerns with the fiscal health of the pensions systems… But I refuse to repeat the mistakes of prior Governors and Legislatures who enacted pension legislation without ensuring appropriate safeguards for taxpayers nor securing significant concessions from labor.”
The same sentiments are still felt by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Association of Counties, who opposed the bill Thursday, requesting that amendments be made to the proposal for equal balance among union and employer board representation, as well as tightening the abilities the board would have when it comes to benefit increases for participants.
However, the campaign of Christie’s successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, revolved around the support of organized labor. Bill S-5 could see approval if it finds its way to the governor’s desk.
“It’s a ludicrous argument because it’s our pension system,” Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, told Northjersey.com. “We’re here because we want to save the system.”
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will review Bill S-5 Monday.