NJ in ‘a Financial Death Spiral’ — Senate Leader Wants Benefits Reform
New Jersey state Senate President Steve Sweeney says he is working on a plan to save big money on health care costs for public sector workers and give property taxpayers a significant break.
During a special edition of "Ask the State Senate President" on WPG's sister station, New Jersey 101.5, Thursday night, Sweeney revealed he’s crafting legislation that would switch all public sector workers from the platinum level health care plan they currently have to a gold level plan.
He said his measure would require municipalities and counties to take the money that would be saved in the switch and put it towards property tax relief.
“They just don’t get to put it in surplus or put it in the bank, so there would be a direct correlation of the change to the taxpayer. If you just give it to towns and counties, they’ll spend it. That’s what happens with government," Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester, said.
Sweeney said this kind of a system could save hundreds of millions of dollars for the state because the cost of providing platinum healthcare for public sector workers ranges as much as $32,000 a year for a state worker's family plan to $42,000 a year for a teacher's family plan.
“We go to a gold plan, there’s a lot of savings to be had and those savings can go back to the people in those communities where they’re paying it," Sweeney said, just days after Gov. Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, delivered his second annual budget address.
Sweeney said with New Jersey continuing to go deeper and deeper in debt as spending, costs and taxes keep rising, the state has fallen into "a financial death spiral." But he believes this kind of plan could make a big difference.
He noted gold level healthcare is still top of the line coverage and switching to it will benefit everyone, including the workers who have it.
“It’s what Fortune 500 companies give to their employees. It’s outstanding health insurance," he said.
Sweeney is holding a "Path to Progress" series of town halls across the state to discuss Jersey’s dire financial predicament and possible solutions to deal with it.
“If you don’t like my plan, what’s yours? But no one else has a plan and no one else is talking about fixing anything. They’re talking about the status quo and the status quo doesn’t work anymore. It hasn’t worked in this state for a long time.”
He also noted in 2023, an Obamacare tax will kick in that will be devastating for New Jersey.
“It’s a 40 percent tax for anything above a gold plan, so can you imagine us having to increase our costs in New Jersey because we’re not willing to make this change? ... This should pass easily, I don’t know why it’s even controversial.”
Sweeney said he plans to introduce the legislation in April.