State Assembly OKs bill hiking benefits costs

(AP) - The New Jersey Assembly has passed landmark employee benefits legislation requiring public workers to paysharply more for pension and health benefits.

The divisive bill passed 46-32 Thursday with support from allRepublicans who were present and a smattering of Democrats.

The Senate approved the bill Monday.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie is expected to quickly sign it.

The measure requires 500,000 teachers, police, firefighters andother public workers to pay a portion of their health insurancebased on income. It also increases pension contributions.

The state's retirement funds are underfunded by $110 billion.

The bill's backers say higher contributions are needed to ensuresolvency.

Opponents object to the four-year suspension of bargaining overhealth benefits.

More than 8,000 rallied at the Statehouse Thursday to oppose thebill.

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