Most recently New Jersey GovernorJon S. Corzine signed the Public Employee Pension and Benefits Reform Act of 2008. While this bill does not affect the members of the Police and Firemen’s retirement System (PFRS), it does affect members of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF). Certain Public Safety Officers in the State of New Jersey hold membership in PERS. The legislation, S-1962/A-2818, is touted to save New Jersey tax payers $150 million dollars by 2022 through new changes to the pension systems to include instituting a higher retirement age and new income eligibility requirements for enrollment in the major pension systems.

The significant changes signed into law today include:

  •  Increasing the annual salary required for new workers to qualify for the state pension system to $7,500. Previously, workers required an annual compensation of only $500 to qualify for the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund, and a minimum salary of $1,500 a year for the Public Employees Retirement System.
  • Raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 for new employees to qualify for a pension without a reduction.
  • The number of paid holidays for state employees is reduced to 12. It eliminates the Lincoln’s Birthday holiday and combines it with Washington’s Birthday, to be observed as President’s Day.

The new law also makes reforms to the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), allowing the state to offer an incentive to employees to opt out of the program and accept health coverage from other sources such as a spouse’s plan. The state has the power and authority to determine whether to offer the incentive and the amount, which could not exceed half of the amount saved because of the employee’s waiver of coverage.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Senators Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), Stephen Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex, Cumberland, Union), and Tom Kean (R-Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union), and in the Assembly by Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden).

While the members of PFRS have been spared by this legislation, close watch must be kept on our elected officials as it appears they are prepared to enact any cost savings measures available due to the poor financial position of the state.