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Assembly Speaker Discussing New Plan for Pension System
Posted On: Jul 21, 2015

NJTV News - Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is not content with where the pension issue stands at the moment.

Last Thursday he convened a meeting of public employee union leaders at his district office in Secaucus to talk about a new five-year plan to fully fund the pension system.

“It’s doable. I’ve been working with actuaries that are giving the numbers that can work and give us a pathway to funding,” he said.

Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association President Ed Donnelly says it was a good meeting.

“The governor has refused to come to the table with the NJFMBA. He has not met with labor. The speaker has committed to bringing labor to the table, which I think is very important. You would think that you would need the stakeholders at the table to come up with some type of solution,” he said.

The state just committed $1.5 billion to pensions in the new budget.

By law it should have been $3.1 billion, and actuarially a little more.

Prieto is looking at stretching out the payment schedule over five more years.

He calls that idea manageable and compares it to refinancing a mortgage.

“How many people re-finance their mortgage? A lot. And that’s what you’re basically doing. If the interest payments when you got it are high, you refinance. So you do that. That’s in the real world. That’s the world I come in from,” he said.

In New Hampshire on Friday, Gov. Chris Christie reacted harshly to Prieto’s idea.

“If all it does is to stretch out the time requirement to make the same payment for the same bloated system, then it’s no solution,” he told NJ Advance Media.

“So it’s all about a soundbite. He’s in presidential mode. Unions are the enemy,” Prieto said.

Christie says more reforms are needed, like those proposed by his pension and benefits study commission.

“It can’t just be on the backs of public employees. If you take that commission’s report and really dive into it and look at what they were trying to do there with shifting costs back from the state onto municipalities, you’ll crucify, you’ll crucify local government,” Donnelly said.

Why is Prieto pushing the issue again now?

“Being honest with you, I wasn’t pushing it. I was quietly having a meeting. Somebody leaked it out. I was doing what I’m supposed to be doing, doing the people’s work,” Prieto said.

Prieto says he’s still working out the details on what to do and how to get it done. Christie obviously poses an obstacle. Bottom line: the struggle over public employee pensions in New Jersey did not end on June 30.

This article appeared on by Michael Aron.

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