As reported by NJ.com, nearly 8,000 New Jersey Police Officers and Firefighters with twenty (20) years of service can now retire early under a bill signed into law on Monday. The legislation, S107, known as the “burnout bill,” allows public safety workers who reach twenty (20) years of service within the next two years to retire with a pension, regardless of their age. Current law limits the early retirement benefit, the equivalent of half their salary, for public safety workers hired after January 2000 to those at least 55 years old.
The unions who advocated for the change said it was not creating a new benefit, but rather bringing officers and firefighters after 2000 in line with those hired before 2000. It corrects what they argued was a misinterpretation of the 1999 law creating the early retirement benefit by former Governor Chris Christie’s administration. Opponents, including local government representatives, have said they were concerned about putting additional strain on the woefully underfunded public employee pension system and about higher bills for government employees. The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services said it could not calculate the fiscal impact of the bill “with a reasonable degree of certainty.”
Rob Nixon, the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association’s Government Affairs Director, said historically only a small percentage of members opt for early retirement, which has a reduced benefit. “An individual member is leaving well over $1 million on the table by taking this benefit,” Nixon said, noting their early retirement pension allowance is 50% of their final salary and they forfeit post-retirement medical benefits. “Why would they take it? They take it because they’re burning out.” The legislation would extend eligibility for an additional two years, which Nixon described as a limited window to test the financial impact of early retirement.
As you can expect, the extension of this benefit is significant for all New Jersey law enforcement officers and firefighters throughout the State. However, deciding whether to retire after twenty (20) is an inherently personal decision that must be made based upon an evaluation of all the attendant facts and circumstances. As such, if you are deciding whether to avail yourself of his benefit, we are here to offer any assistance we can. Moreover, please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain updates regarding this topic and other important legal developments pertaining to New Jersey Public Safety Officers.