Sure Bet: State Pensions Are Like Winning the Lottery

By Art Gallagher

The news out of Brookdale yesterday is encouraging, especially if it results in our elected officials looking for wasteful and abusive spending in other areas of government like the light that Governor Christie is shining on the Independent Authorities throughout the state.  However there is one tidbit of information coming from the shake up in Lincroft that really sticks in my craw.

Dr. William Toms, the retired State Police Major who is taking over as Acting President of Brookdale on Monday, is collecting a state pension of $84, 293.40 per year.  Toms is 47 years old, according to the Asbury Park Press.

47 years old and the tax payers of the State of New Jersey are paying him $84,293.40 per year for the rest of his life and he doesn’t have to show up for work.


I don’t mean to single out Toms.  He’s just the current glaring example of an out of control pension and benefits we are paying our retirees.  There are thousands of examples. Most of my readers can probably think of two or three people who either are or will benefit from this system right of the top of their heads.

Senators Jennifer Beck and Steve Oroho have proposed legislation that if enacted would stop retirees from collecting a pension and a government pay check.  Even if their bill, S-2716 is enacted, which is highly doubtful given all the legislators and their friends and family who are in the system, the bill doesn’t go far enough.  Not nearly far enough.

Pensions should not be like a lottery payoff.  Pension should be deferred compensation for a job well done over a lifetime.  They should sustain a retired employee and his/her spouse during their “golden years” when they are too old to work.

The average 47 year old is in his/her prime earning years.  Such a person doesn’t need be sustained for another 10, 15, 20 or 30 years.   This system is insane.  It is unsustainable.

In the private sector, if an employee and their employer have saved and invested for their retirement years in a 401K type program and IRAs, the employee can’t make withdrawals from those retirement accounts before age 59 1/2 without paying tax penalties.   There ought to be similar age restrictions for collecting on government pensions.

Collecting on government pensions ought to be age restricted.  59 1/2 is probably to young, but a political argument could be made for it given the federal restrictions on private retirement account withdrawals.   And pension payments should be offset by any employment income, not just government employment income as the Beck/Oroho bill proposes.

Posted: March 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Pensions | Tags: | 20 Comments »

20 Comments on “Sure Bet: State Pensions Are Like Winning the Lottery”

  1. James Hogan said at 11:16 am on March 4th, 2011:

    Art, in the Toms case — I understand that it is the “Board of Trusties” at Brookdale who have appointed him, but those people on the board surely have names and faces — maybe it’s worth someone grabbing those names of people on the board and looking into them as well? They seem to have gone from worse to just bad and still don’t seem to get it.

    Also, it seems to me that the Beck bill can go further, and still be reasonable, if it stated that once you start collecting a pension from the state, you become ineligible for any and all public jobs for ever? Maybe even try to the slightly less reasonable goal of saying you also can’t take a private jobs when the private business is substantially funded by public grants/funding, and I say this because I personally know of a few people who WERE gov’t workers, who “retired” from their gov’t job on a Friday, only to return to the same exact job on Monday as a private/civilian contractor, getting paid the same salary… plus their gov’t pension/retirement benefits. It just seems wrong but the conflict of course is that fine line between a free-market/unregulated system and reasonable regulations to curb abuse of a well intentioned system.

    Also worth noting that I think some of our legislators know and agree that the system is bad and broken and some have even stated this in private — I’d hope and expect that they publicly support Beck’s bill, even if it means an impact to them personally, and any opposition to her bill should be met with swift opposition from all of us.

    PS … $85K a year to be retired and then another $2885/week ($150,000/yr)…. how and where do I submit my res-u-me for that gig? I think I got into the wrong industry… those union teachers/guidance counselors gave me bad advise. 🙁

  2. Middletown Conservative said at 4:29 pm on March 4th, 2011:

    Question is are politicians like Senator’s Beck and Oroho in the pension system themselves? How about our local assemblymen and assemblywomen? Are they in the pension system? How about our local elected officials in Middletown? As I understand it, elected officials at all levels can join the pension system. Perhaps that’s why they seek reelection cycle after cycle – to get their 10 continuous years of service for vesting. I’m just asking.

  3. Gene Baldassari said at 5:38 pm on March 4th, 2011:

    The people who accept these nice gifts from the taxpayers are not the guilty ones.

    The criminals are those who made deals that screwed taxpayers – providing overpriced services at the point of a gun – promising voters that they will steal money to pay for votes.

    Those who have stolen money from hardworking, productive people must be required to pay reparations.

    How to arrange that? I do not know.

  4. anonymous said at 7:49 pm on March 4th, 2011:

    The fact that the president of Brookdale CC has taken advantage of HUGE salaries and outrageously CEO like perks/country clubs/SUV,s etc. On the taxpayers dime is outragous. This is why NJ taxes are so high! The real criminals are the leaders and politicians who approved this and helped bankrupt the county and state. Who approved these perks ? To fill the role of acting president with a double dipper is insane. Its an insult to NJ. To retire at 46 with 85k a year like Toms is criminal. It seems the true leaders in 2011 are Christie and Curley. They are 2 leaders that are brave and challenging the system and cutting waste. They are not typical politicians that just sit and say ok. They are challenging the status quo. It seems like they are looking out for the taxpayers and that’s what we need in NJ and not figure heads that don’t look for waste and abuse.

  5. speedkillsu said at 8:32 pm on March 4th, 2011:

    I know it has been suggested before but why not put a tax on these pensions starting at about 44K at 10% and moving it right up to 50 to 60% on pensions above 100K and have that money dedicated to be returned to the pensions themselves …..who could not want this …except

  6. Tom Stokes said at 11:17 pm on March 4th, 2011:

    What you didn’t mention is the fact that early retirees (like this one) get lifetime health insurance for many years before they are eligible for Medicare and the State health Plan becomes secondary to Medicare.

    What Christie needs to do is to ban lifetime health benefits until you become eligible for Medicare. Now that will cut a substantial expense!

  7. Henry Vaccaro said at 10:25 am on March 5th, 2011:

    Art you are right on target with this total abuse of the system.It needs a complete overhaul. In Asbury Park we have a Supt. of Schools earning $190,000 plus benefits and a staff running Half a High School and 4 other schools, all under performing.We have a paid Fire Dept with a Chief and Three Battalion Commanders. It cost the City aprox $24,000 per year for health care for every employee the city is going broke.

  8. Jim Sage said at 11:46 am on March 5th, 2011:

    To MiddletownConservative: Your questions are right on the money!! Not too long ago, Jennifer Beck had a “Report Government Waste and Fraud” link on her senate web site. I reported the fraud, lies and deception with the pension fraud currently taking place at the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Department–she never got back!! It’s all bullcrap! It’s all about public relations! To this day, she has never said it was wrong. I’m still waiting Jennifer.

    I don’t care if your a “R” or a “D”—fraud is fraud!! Don’t do it on my dime or that of others!!

  9. Freespeaker1976 said at 2:41 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    I’m ALL for reform, but I see the need for a staged system, of reform; gradually pushing back the retirement age, year by year; while grandfathering in people currently 55 or above.

    How do you handle those that were getting ready to retire in a year or so at 55 or 57, AFTER working for 30 years?

  10. anon. said at 2:59 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    TO Freespeaker: Tell them that there are millions of Americans and NJ people that were layed off in the private sector. They have NO job! These people are highly educated and are out of work in some cases for a year or 2 and still looking.They have no income ! There is no retirement at 55, no Cadillac health insurance for wife and junior and kids, no HUGE pension (prematurely paid in NJ), precription plans, $30,000 cashout in sick days etc. etc. etc. They have NO INCOME. There is NO need to pay $1200 a month for COBRA for family like the unemployed. Thats how you handle it Freespeaker ! Tell them how good they have it and get back to work. Set the alarm for another 10 years and shut your mouth. The system has raped and robbed the taxpayers for too long and we are sick of it. Arts article about NJ pensions is 100% accurate. Its like hitting the lottery. Mr. Toms is getting $85k a year for LIFE at such a young age ? Its pure insanity! Freespeaker, any other questions on “how to handle it” ? And yes I am speaking from experience. So take that staged reform and grandfather clauses and all that other “half stepping” conservative approach and throw it out of the window and go down to the local unemployment office and have lunch outside and observe my friend. Wake up NJ.

  11. Jim Sage said at 4:55 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    FreeSpeaker: I’m with you on your point. I started a government job (police officer) knowing full well in advance what I would receive after I retired. During my employment, I did not receive–nor did I expect to receive– the high salaries that were available in the private sector; nor did I receive year-end bonus and/ or 401(K) employer contributing plans. I did not have weekends and holidays off to do the simple things like have a meal with my family–I gave that all up for the modest salary I was earning.

    During 911, I had to work 12 hours tours, 7 days a week for two years. No one from the private sector gave a hoot. My agency lost 37 men and woman; 4 committed suicide, and I can’t even count the failed marriages as a result of this archaic schedule. Now many of us are sick facing death from pulmonary diseases.

    In between all this, I was shot in 1983.

    I am union and proud!! We cannot make this a “civil war” over government workers vs. non-government workers.

    Yes, the age of life expectancy has gradually changed over the years. And I firmly believe the age for retirement should creep up as well. But for those that are about to retire–You don’t pull the rug from their feet, and change the rules in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.

    And above all: it’s ok to agree to disagree. There is no need for disparaging comments.

  12. anonymous said at 6:33 pm on March 5th, 2011:


    I’m with you 100 per cent. Union is not a dirty word. Met you down the shore several years ago for a childrens fund raiser. I think you should run for sheriff.

    god bless

  13. Freespeakere1976 said at 10:52 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    My Anon, I hit a nerve. The problem is that the UNION MEMBERS did not cause this, it was the politicians siphoning things off and failing to make the payments to the fund.

    A lot of these union members, especially teachers; started some 30 years ago when teacher pay was FAR BELOW what private sector pay was. They “took a deal” that said at a point in time, you would have “X”

    Now, when someone is a year or two away from a planned retirement, you want to pull the rug out from them.

    YES, WE HAVE TO REFORM. But for those few in the last couple years; their commitment needs to be honored. They honored their commitment and took a very short deal for a number of years when they were hired.

    We should be talking about those from new hires up to about 20 years of service, with a staged program for people from 20 years to 30 plus years of service.

    As to the amount of pensions, most civil service people are not getting $85,000 a year pensions. Going back to teachers, I believe the number is years of service over 55 or so which yields about $40,000 on an $80,000 final years pay. I may be wrong on the exact numbers, but no teachers are retiring on full pay.

    WHAT I AM AGAINST, is two public service pensions. Worst case scenario is that when a person retires from one public sector they can add to existing pension credits IF they actually haven’t started taking that pension…

    In other words, retire from Public Sector Job A, Start Public Sector Job B and THEN take your pension at the END of Job B, adding the time from Job B to your credits.

    Oh, and yes; I AM a FULL and proud conservative. Some people here know me as that.

    But I also look at the other sides of things. I don’t like to stiff people who signed on to a program some 30 years ago.

  14. Proud Republican said at 12:57 am on March 6th, 2011:

    Ok freespeaker76, where does the money come from to continue the system that is killing our country?

  15. Freespeaker1976 said at 9:12 am on March 6th, 2011:

    Proud Republican, NO WHERE did I say continue the system.

    First, I am against two pensions, said that.

    Second, I see the need to change the system; starting with new hires AND people up to 25 years of service.

    Third, throwing this in on top; YES…the employees talked about should be in a 401k style system.

    But, I am NOT for “screwing” people with 25-30 years of service, hired WAY BACK when their pay was substantially less than PRIVATE SECTOR pay.

    There should be a way out of that situation.

    How would you feel if you were getting ready to collect Social Security at 62 and all of a sudden you were told you had to work another 5 years.

    THAT’S what I am talking about.

  16. Freespeaker1976 said at 9:15 am on March 6th, 2011:

    Sorry, in point Three; I should have said, new hires and employees up to 20 years or so should be in a 401k style system.

  17. PFRS 18 years said at 7:41 pm on March 6th, 2011:

    I will give up my pension when the rest of you give up your social security, and all of the other “unsustainable” perks that YOU are entitled to! Get off your high horses! You people couldn’t have cared less about us when you were rolling in it back in the day!

  18. Concerned daughter of a Retired State Trooper said at 5:52 pm on March 9th, 2011:

    This is a simple principle that it is clear most laypeople don’t understand. CONTRACTS. You sign an employment contract and you go to work. They pay you. The End. The state of NJ contracted to give these people pensions. The people went to work and paid their dues, they deserve to receive their pensions. The state should not employ people more than once if they don’t want this to happen. They shouldn’t be forcing people out of their jobs because THEY double employed people. Furthermore, State Police, like my dad, are forced into a retirement after 20 years of service. That is why Toms is collecting a pension at 47, not because he’s lazy, or got out of his job or whatever. The man was a Major…he deserves it. My father is one of the people forced to retire from the State Police because of an age ceiling which he hit a few months before he was set to retire with full benefits. He was forced and to take a second job with the Attorney General where he is working to supplement his health benefits and money because his meager pension does not provide this “glamorous lifestyle” that you all seem to think retirees are getting.

    I suggest that before all of you people jump on the bandwagon when you CLEARLY have no idea how this will affect families…You think about how you would feel if you worked for years and were promised things like some money and health benefits (when you’re a diabetic in your 50’s with liver problems), only to have them be taken away by government who doesn’t know you and your family from Adam.

    And as a final note, is Governor Christie giving up HIS double pensions????? He is a former cop, which he gets a pension for, and now he is Governor which gives him a pension as well as all kinds of other benefits…. I’m sure the exception in the bill talking about “certain public officials” doesn’t apply to him. Right???

    This makes me regret voting for him and Beck in Monmouth.

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  20. MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » How can we sustain this system? said at 9:23 pm on December 29th, 2011:

    […] per month less per month than he did when he put the uniform on every day.  Or like the retired State Police Investigator, 47 years old, collecting  a pension of $84,300 per who is Acting President of Brookdale Community […]