Tag Archive: benefits

This one perfect little map says everything about Chris Christie the rest of America needs to know.

This is a map of where the 1.3 million people losing unemployment aid tomorrow live. A map of the America Chris Christie wants to run from the White House in 3 years. Across that greyscale map from the Washington Post are states where Chris Christie will be jaunting as chair of the Republican Governors Association, raising truckloads of cash for other people like himself who serve the wealthy interests above all else. Now that the Christie operation shifts focus to selling him across those greyscale states like he was marketed here, national reporters are going to get a taste of the propaganda operation that has been our everyday for 3 years. There will be a lot of speeches before audiences stacked with the conservative and the curious. Christie’s campaign manager Bill Stepian is now installed at RGA. So the skills will transfer nicely.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie sold a Jersey Comeback with slick pageantry to stacked audiences, and Jersey political reporting took on the breathless tone of celebrity coverage. We’re going to see if the national press can be as easily dazzled and re-directed as some of the state press. The tenacity of the GWB story may be an indication Christie may have a harder time.

Back to the map. In the sea-to-sea greyscale there is just one black spot: New Jersey, where 90k people will lose benefits. We get the biggest hit: 1% of our population. Chris Chrsitie’s Jersey Comeback. Slowest economic growth in the region. Unemployment consistently way higher than national. An economic picture – despite how much cash Christie’s shoveled toward corporations or how much he’s coddled the wealthy – so dull that Moody’s takes notice.

This one little map says it all. Send it to somebody outside NJ.

Town Halls – A Study in Contrasts

Governor Christie’s “Town Hall” meetings have fascinated the mainstream media with their bombast, fancy props, and security details consisting of State Police and men in dark suits wearing earpieces. The script is always the same – a daytime meeting making it difficult for working people to attend, the governor pontificating for a while and then taking off his coat to answer questions, and his relishing YouTube moments to bash Democrats, teachers, female legislators, or whoever his target happens to be that week.

By contrast, the Democrats’ Town Hall meetings are low key, with scant coverage by the press, and no fancy props. After all, while the Governor’s political rants are paid for by taxpayers, the Dem’s meetings are funded by the party.

Last night, Senate President Stephen Sweeney was introduced by Senator Fred Madden at a town hall meeting at Camden County College in Blackwood. The auditorium was full, but not overflowing. There were no long lines to get in, unobtrusive security from the campus police, and no hoards of mainstream press and TV cameras to bring the proceedings to the general public.

Sweeney only spoke for a few minutes before taking questions from the audience. While the main item on the agenda was his tax reform proposal, he took questions on a variety of topics. Blue Jersey was there to bring you the proceedings. (Unfortunately, we had technical problems with the campus audio feed. The audio is sub-par; listening with headphones for better clarity is recommended.)

Below the fold: some time markers for interesting questions and answers.

Pay to Play Trumps SHBP

promoted by Rosi

As aggravating as The Star Ledger’s editorial page has been lately (in regards to its general animus towards the NJEA and public sector unions in general) , I was happy to see today’s editorial, N.J. municipalities waste millions when buying insurance.

The reason I was glad to see the editorial is two fold. One, I concur with the editorial.  The health insurance industry is extremely complex, most cannot grasp it (which is one reason mayors get away with flim flam pay to play broker business).  The reality is that there are power in numbers especially when it comes to a self insured plan, like the SHBP.   Towns that go out and purchase private, fully insured health benefits for small to medium groups cannot realistically compete with a self insured health and prescription plan that has hundreds of thousands of members in it.  Unless these small groups are purchasing benefits with drastically less value (which is not the case) than the SHBP, the argument that they are being prudent is ridiculous.

More below the fold …

Why I Support Eliminating Sick Day Payouts

Yeah, I back the idea of eliminating sick day payouts.  Not for the reason Steve Sweeney or Chris Christie are, to save money, but I do think it’s a good idea.  

Before I go any further, I agree with Jersey Jazzman that there should be some tat for this tit.  As I said the Sweeney-Christie team are looking to reduce government costs, but I don’t think that should be done on the backs of workers.

But sick days are necessary to the health of the employees, the health of the various governments and the health of the state.  

More below the fold.

Why I Am Against the Sweeney Sick Day Plan

NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney unveiled a plan today to completely do away with unused sick day payouts:

Democrats had previously wanted to cap sick leave pay for future accumulated unused days at $15,000, then offered to lower the cap to $7,500. But Christie has been steadfast to his opposition to any compromise, lambasting the Democrats’ proposals telling town hall gatherings “zero means zero.”

Under Sweeney’s proposal, payouts for unused sick leave would be limited to what workers have already earned.

Currently, state workers’ retirement take home pay for unused sick days is capped at $15,000. But some local governments have no limits, causing budget strain.

Full disclosure: I am a public school teacher. And I am against this plan; here’s why:

1) It is a well-established fact that public employees with significant experience or higher education make less in salaries than private sector employees. There is a body of excellent scholarship that shows teachers are relatively underpaid, and that benefits do not make up the gap in compensation. Recent studies have confirmed public workers make less than private workers, and the gap grows greater as the level of education of the employee rises.

More below the fold.

Pension-Benefit Realities

I’m not sure where to begin.   I have been thinking about the repercussions of the Christie/Sweeney benefit and pension laws that were recently enacted.  The increased health and pension benefit contributions, combined with cap law and the polarization of PERC will ensure for me, and tens of thousands more, a pay cut for the next 5 years.  My disposable income in 2011 will be more than it will be in 2016.  I know this makes many feel good.  The greedy public worker finally gets what has been coming to him.  It was a good call to arms by Christie to rally those who have suffered from the greed and selfishness from the Wall Street thieves.  A common enemy in a depressed economy is a fabulous way to propagate an ideology to make others feel someone should suffer.  So here we are…..tens of thousands will not see pay increases as the cost of living increases and the value of investments and real estate plummet.

To me the question is, what is the value of this law and union busting to the general economy?  The issue of health insurance and its ever increasing costs is where the answers lie, the real ideological difference between left and right.  Should the ability to see a doctor for a reasonable cost be a human right, or should it be a privilege for those fortunate enough to participate in a for profit health insurance scheme?  The answer is obviously that Christie and Sweeney believe that perpetuating a privileged, for profit health care system is the America they would prefer to see.   The cost of health insurance is where they decided to target, they could have chose a Massachusetts style reform, or expanding the SHBP by making public employers mandatorily participate and increasing the negotiating power of the state.  The governor and legislature chose perpetuating the current broken, privileged, for profit system of delivering health care.

The economy is another ideological difference here.  Any economist will tell you, and history will prove that government should spend during a recession, not curl into a ball and let things fall apart.  Christie and Sweeney took this opportunity to pursue their ideological fantasies to screw public sector unions.  Each public sector employee will now take a multi-thousand dollar pay cut, money that will not be spent on cars, home improvements, and flat screens.  The lack of spending will reduce commission paid to sales people and sales tax paid to the state of NJ.  Some may not be able to afford their homes any longer, adding more stock to available real estate, thus pushing real estate values lower and decreasing the value of real estate taxes.  As day care, fuel, electricity, and food costs continue to rise this will further diminish purchasing power of the middle class.  Increased cost of living combined with legislated pay cuts to the public sector will further decrease sales tax revenues.

The Christie/Sweeney pension and benefit reform may produce some short term relief for municipal budgets as the public sector is now required by law to take a pay cut.  I question if taxes will really go down as government is subject to the same uncontrollable costs as every other citizen.  Real, long lasting reform could have been accomplished by fixing real problems (like our broken health care system).  The pension-benefit law will do more harm than good.  It fulfills an ideological hatred for government and its employees.  The damaging effects of this recession and its impact on those most vulnerable creates a real need for competent government.  Shrinking government when those who need it most is insane.  Perpetuating a broken system on the backs of the middle class is insane.  Legislating a pay cut that will further damage a weak economy is insane.  It may take decades to correct the Christie legacy, if we are lucky enough to make a correction.

New Jersey Betrayal

Once upon a time in the State of New Jersey, we had a situation where the public workers (of the state) such as teachers, nurses, police, and others were blatantly violating the laws of NJ by not  contributing into their pension funds. In fact for 11 of the last 15 years, these irresponsible people paid ZERO DOLLARS into the funds. During this time the State of New Jersey has been paying its full share amount into each pension fund all along. Now the pension system is severely underfunded and it is time for those who have not been paying into the system to pay up. Why should the State/taxpayers have to make up the difference when these people were so irresponsible? Those who have been paying their fair share should not be made to bear the burden for the irresponsibility of those who did not.

In an admirable bipartisan spirit, Governor Chris Christie (Republican) has worked closely with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (Democrat) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (Democrat) to forge a Pension-Benefits Reduction Bill that will restore solvency to the pension system. This bill will hold those who have not paid their fair share responsible for restoring solvency to the system through additional deductions, reduced health care benefits, no cost of living increases for pensioners, the establishment of a board that would offer plans with fewer benefits as well as increased co-pays and prescriptions and most importantly the stripping of the unions’ right to negotiate their health-care insurance coverage and contribution levels.


So again, why should those who have been paying their fair share be made to bear the burden of the irresponsibility of those who did not?  The pensioners will no longer receive cost-of-living increases until the system is “determined to be solvent”.  These are people who paid faithfully into the system their entire professional lives. While this might sound like a reasonable concession on the surface, if you look deeper, it will devastate this group.  According to a well respected data site, shadowstats.org, the current annual inflation rate is 12% and is climbing. This means that pensioners will lose half their buying power in 4 years. In 8 to 12 years they will be living in poverty!

During the courtship of Governor Christie, Senator Sweeney and Sheila Oliver failed to strong arm their Democratic Caucuses to support the bill and were not successful at getting a majority to do so. However, in North Jersey (Essex area) and in Southern New Jersey, the very powerful party bosses were able to order enough Democrats to betray their principles, so that when combined with the Republican minority in both houses, the Pension-Benefits Reduction Bill was able to pass.

In a cynical move, to protect themselves from the inevitable backlash for their betrayal, the vote on this Pension-Benefits Reduction Bill was purposely withheld until after the primary elections had been completed and the deadline had passed for adding names to the coming election ballot.

This betrayal of organized labor by the South Jersey Democrats has ignited a firestorm among this core constituent group as well as others who recognize the injustice of making some pay for the irresponsibility of others. Meetings were called and the NJ Progressive Democrats of America (no affiliation to the Democratic Party) charted a strategy.  During these meetings the Democratic legislators who betrayed their constituents were renamed “Christiecrats”.

These Christiecrats claim that they are looking to make the fund solvent, but where were they during all the years the Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly and the state was not making its contributions into the fund? Their silence was deafening.

On Monday, August 8, at the War Memorial in Trenton, the NJ Progressive Democrats of America will be starting a petition drive for the removal of Stephen Sweeney from the Senate Presidency and Sheila Oliver from the Assembly Speakership.  The petition will be presented to NJ State Democratic Committee chair John Wisniewski.

In these times when public workers are under increasing attack by the corporate controlled media, it is important to remember that:

1. it was not the public workers who instigated multi $trillion bond fraud on Wall Street

2. it was not the public workers who lobbied for financial deregulation

3. it was not the public workers who gambled in derivatives with other peoples’ money

4. it was not the public workers who accepted $billions in bailouts

5. it was not the public workers who paid themselves huge bonuses

6. it was not the public workers who brought the economy to its knees

Remember, the media will try to redirect your anger away from the Wall Street aristocracy. In a classic case of divide and conquer they will try to turn you against other middle class workers, and then place the question in your mind, “why does the bus mechanic who works for the state have full benefits?” WRONG QUESTION! You should be asking why you do not have them.



Not Getting What You Paid For

The members of the Democratic Hall of Shame just voted to stick it to public workers: cops, firefighters, teachers, etc. Their cowardly vote will cost middle class families thousands of dollars and drive away qualified young people who may have considered a career in public service before this betrayal.

What’s especially sad is that these same Democrats have been happy to fuel their campaigns with public employee unions’ money. For example, they were glad to take the voluntary contributions teachers made to their campaigns in 2009 (by law, dues can’t be used to fund campaigns). But when the teachers needed them, they stabbed them in the back, costing them thousands of dollars.

What follows is a list of all of the Christiecrats who voted with the governor for slashing teacher pay, followed by how much money they received from the NJEA in the last election cycle. Teachers, read it and weep: