N.J. Assembly takes up benefits issue

    An Assembly committee will hold a hearing Monday on legislation that would require public employees in New Jersey to contribute more for their pension and health benefits.

    Thousands of union members protested in Trenton last week when the Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the measure. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said the bill will get the support of some Democrats to also make it through the Assembly Budget Committee.

    Despite union criticism, Oliver said the Democratic Party is not abandoning its base.

    “The union movement has been our movement. We’re not walking away from unionization,” she said. “We are dealing with some incredibly difficult financial challenges in this state.”

    Oliver said the Legislature must “do the best we can to balance out the interests of everyone in this state including the unions, and there will be a better day for all of us.”

    Supporters say the changes are needed to save the pension and benefits system. Oliver said she’s not concerned that moving the plan forward will jeopardize her leadership position in the Legislature.

    “That is not my motivation in terms of my legislative decision making. I do not have intentions to be a fixture in the statehouse forever, and certainly I am not one that is obsessed with being the Speaker forever.”

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