The New Jersey State Senate has passed a bill that will force public union workers to pay more for their benefits.
Bucking the state's powerful public employee unions, the New Jersey Senate on Monday passed a bill requiring sharply higher contributions for health benefits and pensions from more than a half-million government workers, while suspending unions' ability to bargain over health care.
As a gallery full of raucous union members looked on, the upper chamber moved the legislation with support from Republicans and a few Democrats in a 24-15 vote. It must still get through an Assembly committee, where it was also being considered Monday, and then pass the entire lower house before it reaches the governor's desk. The full Assembly is scheduled to hear the bill on Thursday.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the driving force behind the landmark legislation, praised the Senate for its action.
"This is a watershed moment for New Jersey, proving that the stakes are too high and the consequences all too real to stand by and do nothing," he said in a written statement. "As a result of Democrats and Republicans coming together to confront the tough issues, we are providing a sustainable future for our pension and health benefit system, saving New Jersey taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and securing a fiscally responsible future for our state."
If the bill makes it through the New Jersey State Assembly, it will be a major victory not only for Governor Chris Christie but for the taxpayers and private sector workers who have been carrying the burden of out of control pension costs and deficit spending.