New Jersey Lawmaker Puts New Pension Proposal On Table

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Chris Christie’s pension commission members aren’t the only ones brainstorming pension reforms in New Jersey lately. A Democratic assemblyman has proposed a plan that would shift new hires into a hybrid plan with some attributes of defined-contribution plans and some attributes of defined-benefit. Reported by The Star-Ledger:

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) last week sent some public union leaders a draft of a bill he’s considering introducing that would keep the current pension system in place for those already enrolled in it, but shift new public workers to a “collective defined contribution retirement program” – a sort of mix between a traditional pension plan and a 401(k).

“It may be something we don’t introduce, but it may be something we do in a different form. But I’d like to start some dialogue in where our pension system goes in the next step for our pension system,” Singleton said in a phone interview “The only thing I would tell you is it’s still a work in progress.”

The idea did not get a warm reception from the public worker labor unions, even though Singleton himself comes from the private side of organized labor, as an official in the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

And Singleton acknowledged that the plan would not do anything to solve the pension’s unfunded liability of about $40 billion, which he said must be dealt with through increased state payments.

Singleton provided the Star-Ledger with an outline of how the plan would function. The gist:

Workers would establish accounts that both they and their employers would pay into, though the workers would pay three times as much as the employer. The money would be managed by a “professional money management provider” that could charge fees of no more than 0.25 percent of the total, while the plan’s appointed board and the State Investment Council would determine where the money would be invested.

The investment returns would be annually credited to the retirement accounts. But if the return is greater than 8 percent, the excess would go into a reserve fund, which would later be used if the investments lost money. The plan would allow for “bonus” payments to the retirement accounts if the reserve fund is healthy enough.

It’s far from the current pension system, in which workers’ final retirement payments stay the same, no matter how good or bad the funds’ investments are doing.

Christie appointed a commission last month to examine the state’s pension system and propose reform ideas. The commission’s final report will come in the next few months.

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