Measure Would Bar Administration from Using Increased Employee Contributions to Offset State’s Obligation
An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Benjie Wimberly and Jamel Holley that would prevent Gov. Chris Christie and future administrations from trying to hijack the increased pension contributions made by public employees to offset the contributions owed by the state.
Specifically, the bill (A-3296), provides that beginning with the July 1, 2017 actuarial valuations of the five state-administered pension systems, any increased employee contributions resulting from the 2011 pension and benefits reform law will be credited as additional contributions to those retirement systems and cannot not be used to reduce the normal contributions required of the state or other public employers.
“The state has a legal obligation to make increased payments into the public employee retirement systems,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “It also has a moral obligation to do right by the employees who have stepped up to the plate and fulfilled their end of the bargain. Bailing on this responsibility would be a dereliction of duty and further exacerbate the state’s pension funding deficit.”
“Hard-working, rank and file public employees have stepped up for years and contributed more to help restore solvency to their retirement systems under the pension and benefit reforms that were passed in 2011,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It’s unacceptable for the administration to try and manipulate the books and pawn those contributions off as the state’s.”
“Public employees are doing their part by making the required contributions to the pension system,” said Holley (D-Union). “This is about holding the administration accountable and making sure it does its part as well.”
Under Gov. Christie’s proposed FY 2015 budget, the administration incorporated a revised methodology that used the increased employee contributions to offset and reduce the amount the state must pay into the pension systems by approximately $250 million.
The reforms passed in 2011 by the legislature were designed to boost the solvency of the state-administered pension systems by increasing the percentage of salary employee members contribute as follows:
– Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund, from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, with an additional contribution of 1 percent to be phased-in in equal increments over a period of seven years;
– Public Employees’ Retirement System, from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, with an additional contribution of 1 percent to be phased-in in equal increments over a period of seven years;
– Judicial Retirement System an additional 9 percent to be phased-in in equal increments over a period of seven years;
– Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, from 8.5 percent to 10 percent; and State Police Retirement System, from 7.5 percent to 9 percent.
Under the bill, the pension funding yielded from these increases will not offset the state and local public employer shares of the normal cost of those systems but will be credited as additional contributions by employees.
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.