Employee benefits bill brings protests, debate

(AP) - Union protests are planned at the NewJersey Statehouse as the debate over employee benefits legislationresumes.

A bill requiring sharply higher pension and health benefitscontributions from 500,000 public employees will be voted on Mondayin the Senate, the same day the contentious bill gets a hearing inthe Assembly.

Democrats who lead the Senate have aligned with Republican Gov.Chris Christie and GOP legislative leaders to back the bill, whichcharges employees more to help shore up the underfunded retirementsystems.

Public-sector unions are vehemently opposed because the billlimits collective bargaining over health care. Many Democratsagree.

A provision returning collective bargaining after four years didlittle to quell objections.

The bill has enough votes to pass both houses without supportfrom a majority of Democrats.

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