Members of New Jersey’s largest teachers union rallied in Trenton yesterday, demanding that lawmakers and the governor support a package of bills that would, among others things, lower their healthcare premiums.
The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) came out in force against a 2011 law called Chapter 78 that mandates them to pay a share of their health insurance. They said that premium increases are outpacing their annual raises and, as a result, they’re losing money. They’re backing a bill that would link their premium share to a percentage of their salaries rather than to healthcare policies negotiated by school districts.
The bill also requires a cap on what teachers pay. NJEA president Marie Blistan said union members would still pay toward health benefits “but there would be a cap that would stop the negative take-home pay that is occurring.”
The School Boards Association opposes the bills, asserting that changing Chapter 78 rules could result in tax hikes and layoffs. “If you limit the employee contributions, who then pays the difference? And that would be the employer — namely, the taxpayer … and going forward we should really be concentrating on ways to control the cost of health coverage,” said Frank Beluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.
The bills have been posted for debate in committee.
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