N.J. Dems hesitate on changes to health, pension benefits

    The leader of the New Jersey Assembly says she won’t move ahead with legislation to change health and pension benefits without more support from her fellow Democrats.

    Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said she’s not opposed to changing benefits through legislation, but knows many Democrats in the Legislature prefer it be done through collective bargaining.

    “I think that is preferable,” said Oliver. “But if that cannot happen, I do believe we must move forward with some form of reforming our current health-care system.”

    Oliver said Wednesday she does not believe election-year politics have much to do with Democrats’ reluctance to legislate benefit reforms.

    But Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley disagrees.

    “There are Assembly members who are from districts heavily populated by state workers and by public employees,” said Woolley. “So, for an incumbent to go against the public unions in some districts around the state is a very serious decision.”

    Oliver said she expects some action to change benefits by the July 1 start of the state’s new fiscal year. She said the issue must be resolved because Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget calls for more than $300 million in savings from reworking the health-care system for state workers.

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