Assembly approves Dancer bill extending early pension benefits for police and firefighters

March 1, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer and advanced by the Assembly today would help police and firefighters facing burnout from pandemic service by temporarily allowing them to retire, regardless of their age, if they have served for 20 years.  

Under 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.

“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). “New Jersey allowed police and firefighters of any age to retire with 20 years of service before, and that benefit should be extended to our brave men and women in uniform who experienced incredible risk, stress and difficulty over the past year.”

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.

“From past experience, we know that no more than 2 percent of members eligible to retire with 20 years of service will likely choose to do so. It’s more than just a job for those who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect and serve, but we must recognize that they can and do suffer from burnout,” explained Dancer. “If they believe that it is in their best interest to retire with two decades of service, knowingly giving up valuable health benefits, we should permit them to do so.” 

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 governments and the state both pay employer contributions.

The Senate unanimously passed an identical bill (S1017) in December. The bill now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.