New Jersey proposing cost-saving measure that the unions will likely oppose

Senate President Steve Sweeney, other lawmakers, and members of the task force discuss the proposed changes. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Senate President Steve Sweeney, other lawmakers, and members of the task force discuss the proposed changes. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A panel of economists and tax experts put together by the leader of New Jersey’s Senate has recommended a variety of governmental changes to make the state more affordable.

 The task force has suggestde new state and local public employees be shifted from the current defined benefit pension plan to a 401(k)-type plan — and that all government workers get a less-expensive health care plan.

Among other proposed changes: merging school districts into regional systems that go from kindergarten to 12th grade; encouraging more shared government services; and changing some tax policies.

There’s bipartisan support for many of the ideas, according to Republican Sen. Steve Oroho.

“A lot of these suggestions have been studied before.  But now we’re going to have the political will to do it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to working with the administration as we are with all our colleagues to getting this accomplished.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney expects opposition to some of the ideas, be he is hoping for bipartisan support to get many of them enacted.

“New Jersey is at the crossroads. In fact, we’re beyond the crossroads. We’re in trouble,” he said Thursday. “And if we don’t start doing some things different immediately, we’re not going to be able to make our obligations.”

Some of the proposals should be easy to do, said Sen. Tony Bucco, but he believes it’ll take courage on the part of lawmakers to get others enacted.

“So we don’t lose more businesses, we don’t lose more people moving out of our state because they can’t afford to stay here,” he said.

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