TRENTON - Gov. Corzine yesterday supported making it tougher for part-time public workers to earn taxpayer-paid pensions.
As debate continued on his $33 billion budget proposal, Corzine said he would support requiring government employees work at least 20 hours a week to earn a pension.
He had previously said he would back eliminating pensions for part-time workers, but not how that might happen.
Government workers need to earn only $1,500 annually to qualify for a taxpayer-paid pension.
"Clearly, something has to be done about participation of part-time employees," Corzine said.
The cost of pensions for government workers has been cited as a leading reason for the state's budget woes and property taxes, the highest in the nation.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan denounced pleas by state colleges and universities for more state funding, citing trips by Rutgers University employees to Hawaii for a conference and to China to research illegal drugs.
"Enough is enough," Cryan (D., Union) told state college presidents during a budget hearing. "Don't look at us and say we're not giving you enough."
Corzine's budget proposal calls for $2.1 billion in aid for higher education - a 3.5 percent cut.
College leaders want a $216 million increase, but Cryan cited incidents described in a recent state Commission of Investigation inquiry into higher-education spending.
In one, Rutgers paid $6,500 to reimburse an employee for an 11-day trip to Hawaii even though it was for a five-day conference. The employee was reimbursed for a rental car, the SCI found, although the 2003 conference happened at the hotel where he stayed.
In another, the SCI said it had found insufficient documentation, including no receipts, for a Rutgers professor's $30,000 trip to China in 2004.
According to the SCI, the professor said he couldn't obtain receipts because it would have involved getting signed papers from drug users and drug dealers and recruiters of drug users and dealers.
Rutgers president Richard McCormick said the trip had involved "an important bit of research."
"I'm not as familiar with it as I should be," he said. "It did involve research on drug use in China."
To which Cryan said, "Is there a need for that here?"
"It's abysmal that you guys come up in front of us and complain about dollars and cents," said Cryan, who is also state Democratic Party chairman.
Cryan said he may propose deducting aid from colleges that don't meet performance standards and creating an inspector general to investigate higher-education spending.
"It's about time somebody started watching some of these stores," Cryan said.
Since 2005-06, tuition is up 15 percent at the state's four-year colleges, up 13 percent at the state's private colleges, and up 12 percent at county colleges.