NJ police, firefighters can retire early under new law. What to know | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
About 7,600 police and firefighters in New Jersey with 20 years of service are now eligible to retire early under a so-called burnout bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Monday.
The law allows first responders to retire after two decades of work, regardless of their age, and collect a pension equal to 50% of their salary. Previously police and firefighters could only collect the pension if they were also 55 years old.
Public safety workers are immediately eligible to retire under the law, which has an expiration date in two years. Lawmakers limited the period of eligibility after critics of the legislation raised concern about how much it could cost local governments.
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The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, which analyzes the financial impact of legislation, said the law could increase retirement allowances by $465 million annually if all 7,630 eligible police officers and firefighters took advantage of the retirement benefit.
But the office’s fiscal estimate “notes that it is not likely that all eligible members would retire under the new benefit,” and that the true cost could not be determined.
Representatives of the state’s largest police unions told lawmakers just a small number of their members were likely to take the option, meaning the fiscal impact estimates were overblown and noted that the early retirement option would not include health benefits.
The unions pushed for the bill, saying it corrected a Gov. Chris Christie-era misinterpretation of a 1999 law and gave burned-out officers a chance to retire early.
Only people already enrolled in the Police and Fireman’s Retirement System at the time of the 1999 law were eligible to retire after 20 years regardless of age. The bill signed into law by Murphy expands that option to first responders regardless of when they enrolled in the pension system.
“At a time when law enforcement has become more hazardous, more stressful and more unappreciated as ever before, this retirement option will give a level of peace of mind to our members who have been ‘burned out’ by the job,” a post on the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association website reads.
Murphy, an ally of unions in the state, signed the bill without public comment.
Stacey Barchenger is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to her work covering New Jersey’s policymakers and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.