By The Staff | The Save Jersey Blog
Unsurprisingly, Save Jerseyans, New Jersey Republicans and the New Jersey (Mis)education Association (NJEA) hold wildly differing opinions of a new Christie Administration commission report calling for additional public employee benefit cuts heading into next Tuesday’s annual budget address.
Assembly Republican Budget Officer Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) praised the New Jersey Pension and Health Study Commission’s supplemental report.
“The commission’s recommendations hit the nail on the head,” O’Scanlon said in a statement. “Unless we implement the necessary reforms, we cannot make the projected massive payments into the system. We will be digging our huge budget hole even deeper.”
The Democrats’ constitutional amendment mandating pension payments won’t change that reality. Virtually every ratings agency – the same ones whose pronouncements are cited by the amendment’s proponents when it’s convenient – agrees emphatically. No realistic amount of economic growth that will magically enable us to make the required payments. That would leave only two alternatives – massive, economy-killing tax increases or massive, service-crippling cuts to state government.
“Asking public workers to shift from ‘platinum plus’- level health benefits – benefits much more generous and expensive than virtually all of the private sector workers who are paying the bills – down to ‘gold’ isn’t asking too much, and can save billions. Other adjustments can be negotiated and derive value for our taxpayers and provide fairness to our workers – without destroying their retirement plans. This problem is solvable if we all work together – and act quickly. The hole gets deeper, and the remedy more painful, every day.
“Every day we wait to fix this problem essentially sets $10 million in taxpayer dollars on fire. The commission’s recommendations should be implemented to guarantee the system’s long-term sustainability.”
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer cried foul, alleging that his union’s members were being treated unfairly.
“The new commission report is just a rehash of old ideas that didn’t work last year and don’t work this year. Once again, the commission has released a report to coincide with the budget address in an attempt to deflect attention from the administration’s utter failure to address New Jersey’s pension funding crisis,” Steinhauer declared. “Like last year, the report is full of excuses for why it’s too hard for the state to meet its obligations. It’s full of proposals to make public employees pay for the state’s two decades of failure. But it lacks any real commitment to a long-term funding solution that honors the state’s obligations.”
The commission’s proposal, if adopted, would move the active public employees onto a so-called cash balance retirement plan coupled with reducing health care costs. A first round of reforms were enacted back in June 2011. but did not go far enough to accomplish more than borrow a little time for the state’s hemorrhaging finances. The NJEA has paid huge sums of cash to influence the coming debate, leading Super PAC spending in the 2015 legislative elections that saw New Jersey Republicans lose four Assembly seats.