PRESS RELEASE April-9-2019

Sweeney Joins With Essex County Officials for Discussion on Cost Saving Reforms for Local Government

Addresses the ‘Essex County 2019 Meet the Mayors Breakfast


West Orange – Speaking to mayors in Essex County today, Senate President Steve Sweeney discussed the cost-cutting reforms in the “Path to Progress” report, including those that will produce savings and efficiencies for municipalities, county governments, local school districts and their employees. Senator Sweeney addressed the “Essex County 2019 Meet the Mayors Breakfast,” which brought together more than 25 municipal and county leaders.


“The ability of local government to provide vital services and capitalize on opportunities to create jobs and expand economic growth will be severely compromised if we don’t make needed fiscal reforms,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The taxpayers deserve to have their government operating in an efficient and effective manner which is achievable by implementing the recommendations proposed by the Fiscal Workgroup. This will produce real savings for The savings will be just as real for municipal and county governments, and for their residents.”


The panel’s recommendations include the merger of the high-cost School Employees Health Benefits Plan(SEHBP) into the lower-cost State Health Benefits Plan(SHBP) to take advantage of the cost savings negotiated by the Governor and the state’s largest public workers union. Combining the two healthcare plans will save money at the local level and reduce costs for school employees. It will be a cornerstone of a legislative package that will be introduced to implement recommendations of the bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup.


The merger would produce hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for local governments, school systems and their employees, with more savings in future years as additional school districts and government entities rejoin the SHBP.


“While the state employee unions worked hard to find savings, the SEHBP has gotten so expensive that it has lost one-third of its members since 2014,” said Senator Sweeney. “It makes no sense for a teacher making $75,000 to pay up to $8,718 for the premium on an SEHBP family plan when a state worker making the same amount only has to pay $5,438 in the SHBP. Teachers and taxpayers will pay less and continue to receive full health care coverage.”


Senator Sweeney repeated his pledge that the Path to Progress legislative package will not require retirees to pay more for their healthcare coverage.


“While retirees pay less than current employees for their healthcare coverage, we recognize that those who are living on fixed incomes in retirement have to contend with high costs of living,” said Senator Sweeney. “We don’t want to ask retirees to pay more. In fact, we want everyone to pay less.”


The discussion included proposals to address soaring pension and benefit costs, make government and school districts more efficient, assess the efficiency of our tax structure and leverage state assets.


“Senator Sweeney has fought to create jobs and expand economic opportunity for everyone,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.  “In Essex County, we have worked to make government more efficient and more effective so that our residents get the services they need and the taxpayers are better protected against unreasonable costs. We are working in partnership with the Senate President because we understand that state, county and local governments should all take this seriously.”