Taxpayer Relief Bill Stalled for Three Years [AUDIO]
Twenty states allow lobbyists in their pension systems and New Jersey is one of them.
One lawmaker first introduced a bill to remove them in June of 2010, but the measure hasn't even gotten a committee hearing.
The bill removes anyone who lobbies on behalf of associations of counties, cities and school boards, from the pension system and from the State Health Benefits program, if they have less than 10 years of service. Any future employees of these groups would be barred from ever getting into the system.
"The taxpayers of the state of New Jersey actually have a role in this," explains Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose. "We all pay into the state's pension system……Going forward, if we say to people, 'You cannot be this pension system ultimately we're saving taxpayers money."
The Assemblywoman hasn't been alone in her quest. State Sen. Steve Oroho has sponsored the measure in the Upper House for over three years. They point out that these lobbying firms are privately held so they are not subject to public oversight. They pay their top executives private-sector salaries, and sometimes lobby for positions that are in conflict with taxpayers.
"Some employees of unions that represent government employees are permitted to stay in the State pension system, even while they are working full-time on union business and not at their State jobs working for taxpayers. That such practices are allowed is unconscionable," says Oroho. "This issue needs to be addressed now. Taxpayers should not be on the hook paying for the retirement plans of private sector workers."
A Democrat-sponsored measure did pass the legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie because he felt it protected unions and didn't go far enough to address the issue.
"One of the reasons New Jersey's public employee pension system was on the verge of collapse is because of ridiculous policies like this that allow government pensions to be paid to private organizations," says McHose. "While we have made excellent reforms to save the system, more are needed."