A Warning from Cali for NJ

Government Of, By and For the Public Employee is No Longer Viable; 2013 is No Time to Forget that Lesson

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Chris Christie is angry at OLSThe plight of bankrupt Stockton, California is just the latest sign that big government doesn’t work and, unsurprisingly, it’s beginning to break under the strain of President Obama’s anemic economy, Save Jerseyans.

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking Stockton’s catastrophic fiscal woes are isolated to wacky Cali.

They should be all-too familiar to New Jerseyans, so the next time you hear a disgruntled policeman or firefighter in your own Garden State sphere of existence complain about Governor Christie’s first term pension reforms in the context of Election 2013, it’s your duty to remind them of the pertinent details.

Union agreements dominated Stockton’s budgeting much like they did in Trenton for a full decade before Christie defeated Corzine in 2009. For example, the average Stockton firefighter costs the city’s taxpayers $157,000 per year in pay and benefits (and only $60-90k of that is actual salary). Retirement isn’t any cheaper; a Stockton firefighter’s retiring at age 50 earns a pension worth 90% of his or her highest year’s salary… in addition to gratis health benefits for life. The cumulative results was a $800 million unfunded pension and benefits liability.

Sound familiar?

Chris Christie inherited a $120 billion pension liability thanks to Florio/Whitman/McGreevey/Codey/Corzine. That’s precisely why Governor Christie pushed for an end to collective bargaining for union benefits, higher public employee healthcare and pension contributions, an end to cost-of-living adjustments and, significantly, a higher retirement age.

It wasn’t a matter of ideology. It was a matter of necessity to protect taxpayers AND public employees, too. Defending the status quo is akin to demanding that all passengers ride the ship to the bottom of the sea; up to 1/3 of Stockton first responders are finding out that their jobs are at risk as a direct result of the reckless, unrealistic promises of past political campaign and politicians.

New Jersey isn’t out of the woods yet. 2011 pension reforms were a nice first step, but the state still faces what I’ve termed a ticking “pension time bomb” in the years ahead. Our latest budget still fell $6 billion short of what economists estimated we need to close the gap despite a record contribution.

What’s needed now is a legislature that will take the situation as seriously as Chris Christie. N.J. state workers punishing the incumbent governor for being brave enough to tackle this issue while the opposition did nothing for decades is, to be brutally frank, an idiotic, selfish, and ultimately self-defeating gesture. A vote for Barbara Buono and a Democrat legislature is a vote to turn New Jersey into Stockton. Tell me who that serves.

You and I know the answer, Save Jerseyans. Now go be fishers of men and explain that to your friends, family and neighbors.

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