Home>Articles>DePhillips, Dunn call for adding county, local representatives to State Health Benefits Commission

Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

DePhillips, Dunn call for adding county, local representatives to State Health Benefits Commission

SHBC recently took controversial vote on benefits plan rates

By Joey Fox, September 16 2022 12:56 pm

On the heels of a controversial State Health Benefits Commission (SHBC) vote to alter and approve a significant State Health Benefits Plan (SHBP) rate hike, Assemblymembers Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff) and Aura Dunn (R-Mendham) called today for a reconfiguration of the commission’s membership.

After months of warnings from unions that a massive proposed hike on the SHBP would be disastrous, the SHBC reached a deal on Wednesday that lowered the increase on state employees’ individual payments from 18% to 3% but foisted an approximately 20% hike on county and local governments. That deal, DePhillips and Dunn said today, isn’t fair to New Jersey’s counties and towns.

“It’s unconscionable that the board could vote in favor of this plan when there is such a disparity between state and local employee rate increases,” DePhillips said. “Our local governments and property taxpayers cannot bear this burden just because they did not work out a last-minute backroom deal. It’s time we make sure they have a seat at the decision-making table.”

The proposal from the two Republican legislators would add two new members to the commission, one selected by the state Association of Counties and another chosen by League of Municipalities. The five-member commission currently includes the state treasurer, the state banking and insurance commissioner, the chair of the Civil Service Commission, and two representatives from public employee unions.

“Municipalities and taxpayers must have representation and a voice in the process to determine health rates,” Dunn said. “New Jersey already has the highest property taxes in the nation and local employees will now face salary decreases and property tax increases because of the approved hikes. It is unjust and the system that allowed this to happen must be fixed.”

Dunn and DePhillips aren’t the first legislators to propose amending the SHBC’s membership. In August, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) introduced a bill that would add four new members: one representing municipalities, another representing counties, a third representing county colleges, and a fourth representing school business officials.

“By providing these additional points of view, we can ensure that all potential concerns are addressed and develop more robust solutions for managing rising costs,” Ruiz said in a statement.

This story was updated on September 19 at 10:43 a.m. with information about the bill introduced by State Sens. Ruiz and Sarlo.

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