Senate panel OKs benefits bill despite labor objections

The New Jersey Senate Budget Committee has approved a bill to require public workers to pay more for health benefits. The full Senate is scheduled to vote next week.

Thousands rallied earlier today in Trenton to protest the legislation, which calls for state workers to pay more for health care and contribute more to their pensions.

Union workers and supporters gathered in the state capital, and busloads more were backed up along a highway heading to the Statehouse. They say they want benefits to be negotiated, not legislated. Many of the protesters called the bill an attack on collective bargaining.

Public employees in New Jersey with at least 20 years of service would retain free retirement benefits under the plan that received its first legislative hearing today.

A previous version of the plan would have required workers with 20-24 years of service to share the cost of health care in retirement.

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