Lost in the Anthony Weiner saga has been real news: Governor Christie has done it again. The Democratic leaders of the New Jersey legislature just agreed to bring benefits for government employees closer to private-sector levels.
Under the plan:
● State and local employees will have to contribute more for their health benefits, up to 35 percent of premiums for the highest-paid workers;
● The retirement age for government employees will rise to 65;
● State and local workers will have to contribute 1.5 percent more of their salary toward their pension; and
● Cost-of-living increases for the state pension plan will be frozen until it is actuarially sound.
This agreement will save New Jersey taxpayers billions of dollars in the coming decades. It is excellent policy. Why should private-sector workers have to pay more in taxes so government workers can retire at 60?
Christie did make a major concession by allowing government unions to bargain these changes in four years. So unions can try to get more generous contracts in the future — if the state and cities have the money to pay for them. Which could prove difficult.
Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver (D) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) did not abruptly convert to fiscal conservatism. Sweeney himself is a former (private-sector) union president. They agreed to these reforms because they ran out of other people’s money. New Jersey is broke. The government pension faces a $54 billion funding shortfall. So legislative leaders accepted
reality and worked with Governor Christie to reduce spending.
This outrages government unions. They are angrily protesting in Trenton, demanding that the legislature “kill the bill.” They view Democrats cutting spending as “betrayal.” Despite their political clout, the government unions are not likely to win this time. In a few weeks Chris Christie — and New Jersey taxpayers — will probably score another major victory.