Gov. Chris Christie today signed into law controversial legislation that will force public employees to pay more for their pension and health insurance.
Christie, who signed the bill flanked by a bipartisan cast of mayors, said passage of the bill is his biggest legislative victory since taking office.
“It is important moment for the state of New Jersey, for its citizens, its taxpayers and New Jersey has once again become a model for America,” Christie said at the bill signing.
Starting on Friday, public employees across all levels of government will pay an additional percent of their pay into the pension system.
Employees will begin to pay more for their health insurance when their contracts expire. For those without contracts or with contracts that have already expired, the increased payments could begin as soon as January, when new health insurance plans are expected to be completed.
The legislation took a bumpy road to passage.
Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) began working on the proposal last fall. They faced strong pushback from the public employee unions, who argued that health benefits should be decided at the bargaining table, not through legislation. But the once-powerful unions were unable to stop the bill.
Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver (D-Essex) got on board with the legislation earlier this month. Republican lawmakers joined a coalition of Democrats, mostly those with ties to South Jersey political boss George Norcross and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, to provide enough support to pass the bill last week.
A last-minute change to remove the most controversial provision of the bill, which would have limited access to out-of-state hospitals, was done through a separate bill, which Christie also signed today.