NJ lawmaker proposes public pension reform

AP News
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Posted: Dec 28, 2009 5:48 PM

A New Jersey lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would bar nongovernment workers from enrolling in the state's taxpayer-funded pension system.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty's bill would restrict eligibility to the Public Employees Retirement System by keeping lobbyists and others out.

Currently, employees of some 17 private groups are eligible for state pensions.

"Why should the taxpayers pay even $1 to someone who is not a state employee, but a lobbyist who is trying to get special favors," asked Moriarty, D-Turnersville.

Nongovernment workers already in the system _ who also have been contributing a small percentage toward their pensions _ would be allowed to remain.

New Jersey's chronically underfunded pension fund was valued at $66.7 billion on Oct. 31, about $60 billion shy of its liability.

League of Municipalities Executive Director Bill Dressel said his group has long advocated for pension reforms.

"We have said all along that we would fully cooperate with any changes to the pension system that are fair to our employees and retirees," said Dressel.

Dressel said all private groups in the public pension system should be treated the same. He said any changes should affect only new hires.

New Jerseyans are paying $1.3 million in pensions to 62 retirees who work for private groups at a time when the pension system is on the financial brink.

The League of Municipalities, the School Boards Association, Association of Counties and others were granted pension rights by lawmakers decades ago though they are privately run by high-paid executives and staffs.

Gov.-elect Chris Christie has vowed to scrutinize New Jersey's pension laws following a report this month about a lawyer in private practice amassing a public pension of more than $100,000 by holding 12 part-time public jobs.

The lawyer, Michael Angelini, who is also the Gloucester County Democratic chairman, was the focus of a report by the state inspector general that questions whether he was qualified to join the pension system.

Angelini said enrollment in the pension system was part of the compensation package agreed to when he was hired.

The case has been referred to the attorney general's office.