In response to a Star Ledger editorial agreeing with the current New Jersey governor that former New Jersey governors are to blame for the state’s pension mess a former New Jersey governor dashed off a rebuttal that appeared in today’s paper:
The Star-Ledger’s March 26 editorial titled “On pension woes, Christie is right to blame former govs,” once again misrepresents the Pension Security Proposal (PSP) that I implemented as governor. The PSP ensured that all pension obligations were accounted for – before then, the pension obligations were carried off the books and not as part of the budget. We brought them on before there was any legal requirement to do so.
While I’d be happy to go into all the details, the important fact is that mine was the last administration that had the pension systems fully funded – in fact, over funded. When I left office, the state had the largest surplus in its history to that date. No governor since has come close to that fiscal health. It’s time to set the record straight.
Gov. Christine Todd Whitman
Setting aside the fact that back in 2001 the plans were actually underfunded were honest actuarial assumptions used, though hardly at the bankruptcy level of today, what Christine Todd Whitman is bragging about is inheriting a working vehicle and then deciding to start filling it with sugar instead of gas to be able to afford other things and every subsequent governor has been essentially required to go cheap on the fuel.
Last year in a blog ranking New Jersey governors who have done the most damage to the state’s retirement system I had Christine Todd Whitman as number one for two reasons:
- getting talked into Pension Obligation Bonds thus foisting then-current costs onto future taxpayers (us, if we choose to pay); and
- deleting the pension contribution as a budget line item for both the state and local municipalities thus making bankruptcy ineluctable.
Chris Christie’s bungling heavy-handed jabs at reform could eventually vault him past Whitman and it may be the arrogance aspect that decides. If so, Whitman pulled a little more ahead today.