Governor Chris Christie’s plan to scale back pension and health benefits for government workers passed in the New Jersey Senatate, as unions protested and a majority of Democrats in the chamber opposed the measure.
Lawmakers voted 24-15 for the bill on Monday, 12 days after first-term Republican Governor Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, announced a compromise. The Assembly Budget Committee subsequently passed the measure 7-5 and the full lower chamber is scheduled to consider it on June 23.
“This is not an attack on our public workforce,” Sweeney, of West Deptford, said during more than two hours of floor debate in Trenton. “What happens to those people if we don’t save these pensions today? We have a responsibility to our public employees.”
The proposal would raise the retirement age to 65 from 62 and freeze cost-of-living increases. Workers would be required to contribute as much as 35 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums based on income, up from 1.5 percent of salaries currently. It would also require workers to pay more into pension plans.