Should the State Offload Teacher Retirement Benefits Onto Local School Districts?

IMG_3106In New Jersey, school districts pay the salaries of their teachers, but it’s the state that picks up the costs of their retirements. Cities and towns, meanwhile, cover their employees’ salaries as well as their retirement costs. That split responsibility is at the heart of one of the core elements of the… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: March 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Christie Administration, Pensions | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

How did N.J. get into this pension mess?

assetContent (26)TRENTON — Some 800,000 people, working and retired, are beneficiaries of New Jersey’s pension system, a collection of funds going deeper into the red. It’s a system that Gov. Chris Christie, in his State of the State address last week, called “ an insatiable beast.” In boom years, New Jersey leaders shortchanged the pension system, and… Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: January 19th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: New Jersey, Pensions | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Christie’s pension plan puts NJ Democrats in a bind as budget deadline looms

Christie’s pension plan puts NJ Democrats in a bind as budget deadline looms (via NJ.com)

TRENTON — No one wants to be the politician who guts spending, raises taxes or reneges on a promise. But thanks to Gov. Chris Christie and a sluggish economic recovery in New Jersey, those are the choices facing Democratic leaders in the state Legislature…

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Posted: June 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: 2016 Presidential Politics, 2017 NJ Gubernatorial Politics, Chris Christie, New Jersey State Budget, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Analysis: Christie Administration Eyes Shift to ‘Hybrid’ Pension System

Analysis: Christie Administration Eyes Shift to ‘Hybrid’ Pension System (via NJSpotlight)

While Gov. Chris Christie is still several weeks away from announcing his proposal to overhaul New Jersey’s pension and retiree health benefits system, his plan seems most likely to center on a “hybrid” model that would give current employees…

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Posted: May 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Pensions | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Analysis: Christie Administration Eyes Shift to ‘Hybrid’ Pension System

Governor Christie’s Remarks On Cutting Pension Payments To Balance The Budget

Governor Christie: I have made the decision that we are not going to blindside our students, we are not going to blindside our seniors, our higher education institutions or those who rely on the safety net the state provides to balance the budget with only six weeks left in the fiscal year. So you have to make choices and we are making them. We’re choosing to be responsible in terms of the way we fund these critical priorities that matter to the people of the state. And we are choosing not put at risk those programs that I mentioned and those services that the people of the state rely upon, especially on such extraordinarily short notice. I’d love to give people tax relief. I’d love to also be able to fund programs that are priorities and that matter a great deal to me and to the people of this state. But until we decide to be adults and deal with the problem we know we have we’re not going to be able to do that. And so today I’m doing what I need to do to fulfill my constitutional obligation to balance a budget. Today I’m going to pledge to make the payments that we need to make to not dig the hole any deeper. But in a time when we’re confronted with this type of challenge I cannot also pay for all the sins of my predecessors, and so we’re going to do this now. We’re going to continue to try to get better as we move forward but you’re going to continue to hear from me and you will hear from me soon with specifics on the way we need to change the pension and the health benefit system. I’ve been saying over the course of the last number of months that come Fiscal Year ’16 New Jersey is going to be paying more for health benefit costs for retirees than we pay for active employees. If there is any greater symbol for how untenable the system has become I don’t know what it is. And so we need to deal with this problem and we need to deal with it directly. I will fix the problems that have been foist upon us today. But I’m going to need cooperation from the Legislature and elected officials across the state to deal with this problem going forward.


Posted: May 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Christie Administration, New Jersey State Budget, Pensions | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Governor Christie’s Remarks On Cutting Pension Payments To Balance The Budget

New Jersey’s Difficult Choices

viewerGovernor Chris Christie can no longer claim that New Jersey is a model for bi-partisan governance that Washington should emulate.

Yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney, playing the role of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) before The Star Ledger’s Editorial Board, threatened to shut down New Jersey’s goverment if Governor Chris Christie doesn’t support a budget for the next fiscal year that makes the state’s payment into the pension system required by the “landmark” legislation that Sweeney and Christie hammered out in 2011, and that Christie has touted as one of his major accomplishments.

Sweeney is reacting to what Christie said about the pension system during his State of the State Address two weeks ago.

Here’s what Christie actually said:

Lastly, let me share with you one more, hard truth that makes this new attitude of choice necessary for New Jersey’s future.

We have discussed many exciting opportunities for investment in our state. K-12 education. Higher education. Crime prevention. Drug rehabilitation and job training. Health care. Infrastructure investment. Lower taxes. Job growth. All exciting, all of which, done responsibly, could make New Jersey an even greater place. But here is the simple truth. We cannot afford to do it right now.


Because of our pension and debt service costs. For the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, the increase in pension and debt service costs could amount to as much as nearly $1 billion.

That’s nearly $1 billion we can’t spend on education. That we can’t invest in infrastructure improvement. That we can’t use to put more cops on the street. That won’t be available to improve access to health care. And for those who would advocate for higher income taxes like the ones I have vetoed before, remember that the amount raised would not even cover the increase in our scheduled pension payment and would undoubtedly make us less competitive in the job market nationwide.

These are the consequences of failing to engage in an attitude of choice. If we continue in an era where we believe we can choose everything, we are really choosing nothing. We need to have the conversation now about further changes to our pension system and to adding further to the state’s debt load. But the time to avoid this conversation and these choices is nearly over.

If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension and debt service costs, we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few.

I am ready to engage in those conversations and help, with you, to truly create an attitude of choice. The result will be a better, smarter, stronger New Jersey. The results from our refusal to choose – a weaker New Jersey with a middle class burdened by even higher taxes. That is an abandonment of our duty.

Centuries ago, a philosopher wrote that “choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”  And this remains true for New Jersey today.

Our destiny is not set – it is the product of the choices we make. Our future is not set – it, too, is the product of the choices we make from this day forward.

So let us choose wisely.  And let us not fail to act.  Let us create an attitude of choice.


Christie concluded that we should choose to fund better schools, safer streets and creating opportunity “for every citizen, through an excellent education, a productive job, and a thriving community.”

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Posted: January 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Pensions, Stephen Sweeney | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

More Hypocrisy, Ignorance and Incompetence from Peters, Bayshore Tea Party Backed Primary Slate

'Queen' Barbara Gonzalez of The Bayshore Tea Party Group via facebook. Click for larger view

‘Queen’ Barbara Gonzalez of The Bayshore Tea Party Group via facebook. Click for larger view

“There will be no double dipping when I am Sheriff,” Dan Peters, the Bayshore Tea Party backed candidate for sheriff said when he introduced himself to the group back in early April, and the last time he talked to MMM in person or on the phone.  Peters was referring to retired police officers working for the Sheriff’s Office, while also collecting a pension.

After repeated attempts to question Peters, MMM was finally successful in engaging the candidate on facebook a couple of weeks ago.  We asked him, given that he is collecting a disability police pension himself, if he would be working for free if elected Sheriff or if he would be giving up his pension.

Peters responded that he would implement a system whereby retired officers salaries are reduced by the amount of their pensions.  This would be a significant savings for the taxpayers, he said.

Not a bad idea, if he could pull it off.  But how could he?   He couldn’t.  Why would a retired police officer take a job with a $90,000 salary, for example, but only get paid $8000 if his/her $82,000 pension off set his salary?  He/she wouldn’t, especially if a similar job where both a pension and salary could be collected was available in another county.  Peters proposal would only result in Monmouth County losing out on the best talent.

For Peters idea (if it is indeed his idea) to work, would require statewide pension reform.  It would require legislation to be passed in both house of the legislature and to be signed into law by the governor.

Well, it turns out there is legislation pending in both the Assembly and Senate now that would accomplish the goal.   Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, who is also being challenged by the Bayshore Tea Party Group backed slate of candidates, is one of the primary sponsors of the bill.

Other Monmouth County legislators sponsoring the bill are Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande as primary sponsor and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini as cosponsor.  Senator Jennifer Beck is a primary sponsor in the Senate.

Posted: May 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 13th Legislative District, 2013 Election, Bayshore Tea Party Group, Pensions | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

How can we sustain this system?

Wall Township Administrator Joseph Verruni is retiring from his $179,000 per year job, after 20 years of service, on June 1, 2012.   He is 54 years old.  His pension will be between $80,000 and $90,000 per year, according to a report in The Asbury Park Press.

This rant is not about Verruni. 

As Wall is a wonderful place, I’m sure he did a terrific job over the last 20 years.   I don’t necessarily begrudge him the $179,000 salary for the work he did (even though Monmouth County Administrator Teri O’Connor makes significantly less)  But he’s 54 years old, starting a new career in the private sector,  that will be supplemented by $2,500,000  if he lives another 30 years!   That doesn’t include the tax payer funded health insurance that will keep him alive, hopefully for his sake and that of his family, more than 30 years!

If Verruni collects $85,000 per year for 30 years, he will have “earned” an additional $127,500 for every year he worked as Wall Township’s administrator.

I really should have taken a government job when I graduated from Georgetown in 1980.

This is not about Verruni.  It is about a system that pays adults in the prime of their earning years the equivalent of full time wages not to work.  Like my high school buddy who retired from the Bergenfield Police Department at 53 and takes home $20 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 year, who is Acting President of Brookdale Community College with a salary of $150,000 per year.

This system is not sustainable and it is not equitable.

The pension and benefit reform package that Governor Christie negotiated with the Democratic Legislature is an improvement of the previous system.  Yet the new system is not sustainable over time either.  We’re not feeling any of the pain yet.

Over the next 30 years, the state pension contribution will be $4.9 billion per year.  The local government contributions will be $2.3 billion per year over the next 30 years.  Both figures are on average.   We’re “enjoying” the savings now with smaller pension contributions that must increase by $500 million per year until we’re “caught up” with all the contributions we haven’t made since 2000.

Unless there is significant economic growth, soon, we won’t be able to sustain this system without significant tax increases. 

Who is going to be left to pay those taxes?

If we’re going to have a pension system for government employees, we shouldn’t be paying out until the retirees are 65 years old, or older as life expectancies increase.

Posted: December 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: 2011 Year in review, Pensions | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


By guest columnist James Hogan

Without Art to corral you donkeys, I thought I’d send the friendly admin my latest Random Thoughts, and try to incite a riot, as I’ve been discussing this very topic with neighbors in my town.

It’s no secret at this point, Jen Beck and Mary Pat Angelini have both come out in favor of gay marriage, a position that is off of the usual Republican line. Earlier this year, Jen Beck voted against a Christie line item veto for “women’s health funding”, which is also off of the line. Likewise, Mary Pat Angelini sponsored and pushed, what I would consider to be nanny state, anti bullying legislation and then pushed the student survey bill that would have asked students for personal information about their households like salary, religious beliefs, political affiliations among other items, again seemingly an off of the line bill. For me personally, both have been on the wrong side of Second Amendment legislation over and over again, supporting One Gun a Month legislation and doing nothing to get NJ’s laws in line with the nation’s firearms laws in light of recent Supreme Court decisions. I’m sure I’m missing a few places where they weren’t toeing the line, but these example should suffice.

But while Jen Beck and Mary Pat Angelini seem to stray from the party line on these few, relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, issues, they also can be accused of just toeing the line on many others. Both can be counted on to toe the line when it comes to pension and benefit reforms, both can be counted on to toe the line when it comes to the 2% property tax cap and other tax reforms. Both seem to toe the line on school choice, teacher tenure reforms and other school funding issues. In fact, one can certainly make the case that both Beck and Angelini always just toe the party line… usually.

So what do you want your elected representatives to do? Do you want them to just be consistent and toe the line, every time? Or do you want them to be free thinkers who sometimes stray from the party line, but try to represent local interests? Is there another option that allows free thinking and local representation without having the appearance of just toeing the line, or crossing the line at the wrong times? If no one on either side was willing to budge from their party line, would anything get done? Does anything, good, get done now with the current system? Where do you draw the line on toeing the line? As a county committeeman, would you accuse me of toeing the line for supporting candidates who don’t always toe the line, or am I getting out of line to support candidates who are sometimes out of line? Again, is there another option?

Feel free to discuss. In the meantime, don’t mind me – I’ll be out “toeing the party line”, or not, and asking everyone in district 11 to vote Beck, Angelini and Casagrande on November 8th because they have done a great job toeing the line or have proving their ability and will to get off the line and have a voice of their own. Either way you look at it, I’m happy with the general direction that the Great State of New Jersey is moving, and.I’m convinced that, in general, Beck, Angelini and Casagrande will continue toeing the line, or not, to keep our state moving in the right direction.

James Hogan

Average No One

Posted: October 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Governor Chris Christie’s Landmark Pension Reforms Deliver $267 Million in Property Tax Relief to New Jerseyans This Year

Trenton, NJ – Governor Chris Christie today announced that the historic, bipartisan pension reforms he signed into law on June 28, 2011 will save New Jersey’s property taxpayers and local governments $267 million in Fiscal Year 2012. Today’s announcement includes $224 million in local taxpayer savings in the Police and Fireman’s Retirement Systems (PFRS), in addition to previously released savings estimates of $43 million in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), for a total savings of $267 million across municipalities, school districts and counties this year.


“This $267 million in savings is the direct result of our bipartisan efforts to take on the biggest challenges facing our state and deliver sustainable, long-term property tax relief to New Jersey’s families and job creators. Because we took action, New Jersey taxpayers are now seeing that real results will ease strained local budgets and bring costs under control at the local level,” said Governor Christie. “These savings are critical to getting our economy moving again and creating jobs, while also protecting the core local government services New Jerseyans expect and deserve.” 


This historic pension and benefits reform law provides more than $120 billion of savings on state and local government pension payments over the next 30 years. Due to the Governor’s commitment to reverse two decades of irresponsible neglect of the pension system, New Jersey’s taxpayers will now realize substantial savings over the next three decades.


The Governor’s comprehensive set of reforms means critical savings for state and local governments and real property tax relief for New Jerseyans.


·         $79 Billion in State Contribution Savings: Over the next 30 years, the state pension contribution will be $148 billion, a projected savings of nearly $80 billion. Without reform, the state was projected to contribute $227 billion over the same period.


·         $43 Billion in Local Government Contribution Savings: Over the next 30 years, local government pension contributions will be $70 billion, a projected savings of nearly $43 billion. Without reform, local governments were projected to contribute $113 billion over the same period.


“These initial savings are just a first installment of benefits that taxpayers will realize under the Governor’s landmark pension and benefit reform law,” said Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff. “New Jersey communities, from the biggest to the smallest, will see savings as result of these reforms.”   


The $267 million represents local government savings from the projected costs of pension contributions in PFRS and PERS had Governor Christie’s pension reforms not become law. The statewide, year over year savings in pension costs experienced by local governments between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2012 is approximately $84 million. 


A savings breakdown of Fiscal Year 2012 PFRS pension cost savings for each local government in New Jersey – municipalities, counties and other local government units – can be accessed at the Department of Treasury’s website here: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/epbam/exhibits/pdf/2012-pfrs-comparison-revised-78.pdf


The local government savings breakdown for PERS, previously released on July 14, 2011, can be accessed here: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/epbam/exhibits/pdf/2012-pers-comparison-revised-78.pdf


Posted: October 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Pensions | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »