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Bill Will Provide State Cop Retirees Free health benefits and Will Pad Pension Of Politicians

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A lame-duck bill quietly making its way through the Legislature is intended to make sure the state continues to cover the full cost of health benefits for a small group of retired state troopers, according to its sponsors and New Jersey State Police union officials.

But a version of the bill that has been passed by the Senate and approved by an Assembly committee reads as if it gives free health care coverage to many more retirees at greater cost to the state.

But lawmakers later amended the bill to broaden the class of eligible retirees from those with 20 to 25 years of service to those simply with more than 20 years. That small change seems to open the door to no-cost benefits for dozens more current and future state police retirees who would otherwise have to pay a portion of their health care premiums.

Under current law, troopers who achieve 25 years of service have to pay up to 35 percent of their health care premiums in retirement. The bill would apply to future retirees and those who have retired within the past two years.

New Jersey has long struggled with ballooning pension and health benefits costs, with those two line items alone projected to consume more than a quarter of the state budget — or $10.7 billion — by 2023.

 The state police bill is moving through the Legislature at a time when lawmakers are fast-tracking another measure, to sweeten the pensions of fellow politicians, including Camden Mayor Dana Redd.