Dancer bill permitting early pension benefits for police and firefighters advances in Assembly

Dancer bill permitting early pension benefits for police and firefighters advances in Assembly

Ron Dancer

TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer that would allow police and firefighters to retire after 20 years of service, regardless of age, for a period of two years after becoming law.

“The stress that comes with serving on the front lines night and day in law enforcement or fighting fires can be overwhelming. This past year, we have asked our first responders to step up like never before as the coronavirus took more than 20,000 lives in our state,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “The mental and emotional toll that our police and firefighters experienced during the pandemic is incomparable. If they believe they need to retire after two decades of service, they should be given that opportunity.”

If the governor signs the bill (A2562), members of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) who have served for 20 years would not have to meet an age requirement to be eligible to retire, as long as they retire within two years of the law’s enactment. They would receive a pension equal to 50 percent of their final salaries, the benefit only available under current law for those who retire at 55 years of age or older with 20 years of service.

A law was enacted in 2000 that allowed PFRS members who were already enrolled to retire at any age with 50 percent of their final compensation upon attaining 20 years of service. Any member who enrolled in the retirement system after Jan. 18, 2000, is not eligible for this benefit.

“Under the 2000 law, only a half percent to one and a half percent of those members opted to retire after 20 years of service. It’s more than a job for these men and women in uniform. They go above and beyond the call of duty to protect and serve, but they can suffer from burnout,” said Dancer. “This benefit is an acknowledgement of all they have done for us this past year. It’s the right thing to do.”

Members who retire at 20 years of service would not be eligible for health benefits, so those costs would not be imposed on the state and local governments. PFRS provides pension coverage to full-time county, municipal, and state police officers and firefighters. State police officers who are covered by the State Police Retirement System would not be covered by this bill. Local government units and the state both pay employer contributions.

The Senate unanimously passed an identical bill (S1017) in December. The bill now goes to the speaker for further consideration.