Republicans express concern over bill separating police and fire pensions

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

“This is not anti-police or fire. It’s just a concern about taxpayers,” said Minority Leader, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

With that, Bramnick called Senate Bill 5 – to separate the police and fire pension system from other pensions – a bad bill and a danger to taxpayers. He had Assemblyman Ned Thomson do most of the talking. Thomson is an actuary, a professional who assesses risk.

“What the police and fire membership are proposing is to segregate that entire operation and put it under the control of a board of trustees that’s appointed by its membership and that is going to be primarily its membership and that are involved in the police and fire industry. Now part of that, obviously you can see there’s somewhat of a conflict when members are controlling their own benefits,” said Thomson. “There is no provision in S5 that is going to prevent the board from increasing benefits and having New Jersey taxpayers pick up the tab.”

Thomson and Bramnick said former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed another bill because he said it lacked safeguards. Thomson says he has a bill that restores protection for taxpayers in a state where all agree New Jersey has failed.

“Yes, the state has failed it’s pensioners for many years, both Republicans and Democrats. I think that’s been said by Republican governors and Democratic governors. We’re here simply to say this may be an overreaction,” said Bramnick.

The head of the Professional firefighters association of New Jersey says he wants to read this 52-page bill before he comments on it. He wants to compare the new bill to S5. He says S5 took two years to write.

“If Assemblyman Thomson truly reads A5, he’ll see that we built in all those protections. There’s protections that the Legislature can look back after five years, and if for some reason we’re screwing it up, which would be an anomaly because every labor management pension system that’s run in this country by public safety employees is run well and run better than the state that they’re in,” said Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.

But, the New Jersey League of Municipalities says S5 is troublesome.

“It would have a potentially devastating impact on local services because municipalities and counties operate under a 2 percent levy cap,” said Michael Cerra, assistant executive director for the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

Prepare for a heated debate once again on funding public pensions.