Tag Archive: Pensions

It’s the Pensions, Stupid – Or Is It?

(Note: Sorry for the length of this.  Feel free to stop and get a snack halfway through.)
A few months ago, State Senator Stephen Sweeney opened up a barrage on the pension program for state workers.  The impetus for this clarion call was the looming budget crisis (we still have a budget crisis for next year, but it isn’t LOOMING yet – just lurking on the horizon).  Sweeney claimed that $700 million if we’d just agree to butcher the promises we’ve made to every state employee for the last forty years.

Nice guy.

So the genie is out of the bottle – pensions are a potential target for the “property tax reform” crowd.  But no matter how much they want to scapegoat the pensions, state law prohibits changing the rules on anyone who has paid into the system for more than 5 years.  In financial terms, they are “vested” and you have to honor the commitment to them.

Bye-bye $700 million.

News Round-up & Open Thread, Sunday August 27, 2006

  • The Asbury Park Press has an editorial saying that Trenton’s goal is to block any real reforms from being made during the special session.
  • Camden County is forcing rape victims to wait for proper care because they have a severe shortage of specialized nurses.
  • The BPU continues to comply with a federal investigation of potential fraud within its clean energy program.
  • Camden schools may have not given accurate records which showed a reported drop in school violenece to make it look like their schools were safer than they really were.
  • Tom Hester has a story about how the public should have a say in the amount of debt the state incurs.
  • Council meetings in Mount Olive have become more contentious including cursing and potential physical action between the Mayor and council members.
  • The Star Ledger looks at what responsibilites the Secretary of State should have on their to-do list.
  • Former State Senator and Middlesex County Chairman John Lynch has privately told friends he believes charges against him are imminent.
  • The DEP has directed three companies to pay $500,000 for investigation and cleanup of mercury contamination at the former Kiddie Kollege day care site.

    What else is going on in our state?  Whats on your mind today…

  • Freddy, the severed hand, a Jersey kind of guy

    To solve the budget deficit the lawmakers have decided to convene four committees, thus giving themselves at least 4X the chance that nothing will change before next year’s budget crisis. To ensure the status quo, the committees were given only reporting power. That means they’ll tell the lawmakers what the citizens of NJ have been telling them for the last months: reduce corruption, cronyism, and cynicism among the elected; make pension plans response to real economic indicators, and—. But why repeat all the things that have been already repeated in dozens of newspaper, chat rooms, blogs, and barbershops. The refrain: Throw the bums out.

    The fight over the pork barrel during budget negotiations cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue. Somewhere I remember Panter, who I always thought was one of the good guys, reported as basically stating so what. The Republicans whined because they didn’t get enough.

    The ex-mayor of Newark will receive money for all the vacation and sick days he didn’t use. That’s not so bad—only $36,547. [See how we’ve been trained to think in Jersey? “Only” $36,547.] By the way, he also has a city pension of over $124K to go along with the $150K salary at Essex County College’s Urban Issues Institute. Two of the first issues the Institute should study are paying for vacation days and a community college paying a politico $150K, but then again, I guess learning how to politic is more important than learning how to write—community college lecturers in writing classes most often make under $30K.

    In keeping with the tradition that old politicians never die, the Keansburg City Council re-hired John Bennett III—even though he did not submit the lowest bid. In keeping with another time-honored tradition, Bennett is also the attorney for the Keansburg School District.

    Then there’s Jeanne Fox [Democrat], the president of the BPU. When asked if she received the job because of political connections, she said no–probably with an attitude. Funny answer. Her husband was Jim McGreevey’s campaign manager. He’s also directing Menendez’s campaign. Would anyone in NJ think that’s there’s at least the perception of cronyism? Another by the way, an audit reports that the BPU under her leadership has mismanaged over $80 million. When asked to explain, she denies there’s been a problem and blamed it on the auditor. When asked whether she knew any of the people who received grants from the BPU, she said no [see above]. Would anyone in NJ think that’s there’s at least the perception of cronyism?

    The Red Bank tax on businesses to support the Visitors’ Center didn’t collect enough revenue to hire people to collect the tax—so the Red Bank City Council proposed raising the tax to $150, evidently enough to justify the hires. Fortunately, at least for the time being, reasonable minds prevailed, and the tax revenue was removed from the budget.

    Howell, with a population of around 50,000 has a township manager and a deputy township manager. Together they make $173,000, not counting benefits.

    And on the light side, severed hands, one at least, in Jersey have names—Freddy belonged to an exotic dancer until one of her roommates blew the whistle. The Dig boss has sued to keep his job—I know the Dig isn’t in Jersey but it should have been. Perhaps we can offer our own version—the Asbury Park Press (July 27) reports that the Oyster Creek plant operators don’t follow their own procedures. Reassuring, isn’t it?

    And this isn’t even a week’s worth of news down in Jersey.

    Connect the Dots: Sweeney, Moriarity, Green …..anyone else?

    Trenton is abuzz whether Senator Steve Sweeney’s labor epiphany on state worker pensions along with fellow legis collegues, Paul Moriarity and Jerry Green is of their own doing or part of a “grassy knoll” to prepare for the Gov’s labor negotiations next year.  After all, with all those fancy charts and graphs included in their accompanying brochure, either this ’06 Mod Squad has the best staff south of I-195 or something else is in the works.  Even Michael Aaron’s Roundtable Reporters today couldn’t agree if they are truly mavericks or vocalizing the will of higher authority. Unless they fess up, it’s anyone’s guess for now.