Number of the Day: $120 billion

June 9, 2011 | Number of The Day

According to Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), taxpayers will save $120 billion “in the long run” if the legislature passes the pension and health benefits package that he and Governor Chris Christie have agreed to support. Just how “long” that “long run” is remains unclear from Sweeney’s two-sentence press release — the only official statement on the agreement so far.

According to various press reports attributed to sources, the plan would require teachers and government workers to contribute 1 percent more of payroll toward their pensions starting July 1 and another 1 percent sometime over the next seven years; police and firefighters would have to contribute 1.5 percent more starting July 1, and the retirement age would be raised to 65. These actions — and perhaps others — would be required to make up 80 percent of the $53.9 billion pension shortfall over the next 30 years. Current employees would be required to pay for up to 30 percent of their healthcare premiums (with lower-paid workers paying less), but this does nothing to solve the $67 billion deficit in retiree health benefit costs.

So where is Sweeney getting that $120 billion estimate from? Expect Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), whose caucus was not buying into the deal, to ask some hard questions about those numbers.