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Christie Strikes Bipartisan Deal on State Employee Benefits in New Jersey

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thousands of public unionists and their supporters rallied in Trenton, New Jersey on Friday, Feburary 25. (Bob Hennelly/WNYC)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the Democratically controlled legislative leaders have reached a deal on remaking the state's pension and health plans for state employees — a bipartisan deal to scale back state employee benefits in New Jersey.

"After months of serious discussions, we are pleased to announce that we have reached agreement on legislation to reform our public pension and health benefits systems in New Jersey," Christie and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Assembly and the state Senate said in a joint statement issued Wednesday night.

Under the plan, state workers will pay a larger share of their premium for their health plans, the retirement age will be raised for new workers and automatic cost-of-living increases for current and future retirees will be eliminated.

Labor unions swiftly condemned the deal for attempting to dramatically changing worker benefits outside of the collective bargaining process. And they didn't reserve their vitriol just for Christie; they blame the legislature's Democratic leadership for bowing to the governor.

"By attempting to take health care benefits out of the bargaining process, [Senate President Stephen] Sweeney and [Assembly Speaker] Sheila Oliver are doing much more than throwing working families under the bus and into chaos: they're attacking workers time-honored right to have a voice in the decisions the government makes about their jobs," Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey State Director of the Communications Workers of America, said in a statement. "We expected this from Governor Christie, but we did not expect so-called Democratic leaders to abandon working families."

The bill will now be considered by the Budget Committees in the Senate and the Assembly.

Despite the deal by leadership, state labor unions will keep the pressure on individual lawmakers — even before the deal announcement, unions had already planned to rally at the New Jersey Capitol in Trenton on Thursday.

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