The Star-Ledger

N.J. Assembly passes landmark employee benefits overhaul
The Star-Ledger

New Jersey lawmakers tonight voted to enact a sweeping plan to cut public worker benefits after a long day of high-pitched political drama in the streets of Trenton and behind closed doors.

Union members chanted outside the Statehouse and in the Assembly balcony, and dissident Democrats tried to stall with amendments and technicalities. Although they successfully convinced top lawmakers to remove a controversial provision restricting public workers’ access to out-of-state medical care, they failed to halt a historic defeat for New Jersey’s powerful unions and a political victory for Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

« Together, we’re showing New Jersey is serious about providing long-term fiscal stability for our children and grandchildren, » Christie said in a statement released after the vote. « We are putting the people first and daring to touch the third rail of politics in order to bring reform to an unsustainable system. »

Christie, who has staked his reputation on shrinking government costs, has called the bill a model for the the country. New Jersey is one of 23 states that have asked workers to pay more for their pensions since the Wall Street crisis in 2008, according to the Pew Center on the States.