New Jersey Lawmaker Snaps

Asemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Republican of Red Bank, serves on the Assembly Budget Committee and apparently he has heard a lot of criticism about the proposed pension reforms in New Jersey that basically throw in the towel on the defined benefit system and seek ways to pay off the massive accumulated debt.

To write such a vitriolic op-ed piece in the Star Ledger today I can only conjecture as to what incessant questions he has been dealing with since the Christie-Freeze plan was announced… I will.

Question #1: How did we get into this mess?

I sympathize with our public workers whose pensions are funded by the state – particularly folks in the PERS and teacher systems. It totally stinks that state leaders over the 20 years preceding the 2011 reforms made promises they should have known they couldn’t keep, and then shortchanged an already over-stressed system. To be fair, union leaders were guilty as well. Everyone sitting at those bargaining tables knew – or should have known – that they were setting up our public pension systems to fail in the future.

Question #2: What was wrong with those people before Christie?

Unfortunately neither members of the public nor union members can go back in time and alter our path by choosing leaders who put responsibility ahead of their own ambitions. I am desperately trying to be a different kind of leader. In order to live up to that aspiration I have to tell it like it is. Repeating the words “just make the payment” won’t win anyone any awards for gutsy leadership.

Question #3: So what about the 2011 reforms?

I apologize that the reforms that we passed in 2011 didn’t solve the problem. I was at that table and folks on both sides were acting in good faith. Had we had the growth over the past several years – that was fair to assume we would back in 2011 – we would be much closer to our projections of our ability to meet our commitments. But that hasn’t happened. The sooner we face that reality the better.

Question #4: Why can’t the state just make the payments?

The folks simply clinging to the “just make the payment mantra” are like folks on the Titanic refusing to leave their staterooms. Saying, “I paid for this and am not giving it up! Blame the ship designers!” won’t help you when the seawater hits your door.

Question #5: Are there any alternatives to the Christie-Freeze?

I’m open to alternatives to the plan put forward by the governor and the pension commission – but to date I have seen nothing but head-in-the-sand pandering. And repeating the words “just make the payment” or we have to “find a way” don’t qualify as plans – and won’t win anyone any awards for gutsy leadership.

Question #6: Wasn’t the NJ pension study commission just a random, biased, incompetent group of men doing an evil, union-hating governor’s bidding?

The bi-partisan pension reform commission created by the governor isn’t some random, biased, incompetent group of men doing an evil, union-hating governor’s bidding. The commission is made up of some of the best, most independent thinkers of our time. To reflexively dismiss them as just another group of political hacks huddled in a back room charged with figuring out a way to kick the can down the road would be a grave mistake.

Then there is the question that Assemblyman O’Scanlon chose not to ask himself: If Wisconsin can keep from running a defined benefit system into the ground then what’ the problem in New Jersey.  He wouldn’t need to look far beyond the latest presidential polls to get a whiff at the answer to that one.


18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dentss dunnigan on April 10, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Bob ,besides the obvious of the state skipping payments the Wisconsin plain is less generous in it’s payout ,plus it’s fixed at a level that the pensioner had contributed to and finally they have no COLA ,which as we know could make the pension checks double over the lifetime of a retiree .


  2. Posted by Tough Love on April 10, 2015 at 11:29 am

    (1) vitriolic …… filled with bitter criticism or malice

    (2) vitriolic …… Mean, nasty, and caustic as the worst acid, vitriolic words can hurt feelings, break hearts, and even lead to violence.

    I read Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon’s linked op-ed piece twice, looking for that “vitriolic” side.

    Couldn’t find it … just a refreshing and HONEST commentary of the current situation.

    Wisconsin’s Plans are in much better shape than most, but if their liabilities were discounted at the SAME rates required of Private Sector Plans, their funding ratios would drop to about 75% ………… not really so good after all.


    • Might be a fair point about the use of the word vitriolic as there could have been a better word though if you are in the pension system expecting to receive the benefits you were told in your handbook would be your due you might take it as nasty for someone to compare you to Titanic passengers shuttered in staterooms when you exercise what you have been told is your right.


      • Posted by truthnolie on April 10, 2015 at 12:35 pm

        Actually the best words to replace “vitriolic” in reference to what O’SCAMLON vomited out would be either “bogus” or “laughable”


        • Posted by Tough Love on April 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm

          Spoken by someone locking himself in their Titanic stateroom and thinking that will solve the problem.


          • Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2015 at 4:07 pm

            Till the icy cold salt water bursts through the door and stuns him into reality.

      • Vitriolic is hardly the correct word here, as that implies malice and bitterness, neither of which are conveyed by the tone and even the imagery invoked by the Titanic reference.

        NJ is, indeed, a sinking ship. The rats (pension retirees) who leave NJ every year once they start collecting their pensions are perhaps an even better example of why the sinking Titanic is the perfect allegory. There is no saving NJ from its fate, but even I am surprised at how quick it is taking on water.


    • Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      have you ever thought to go into comedy, you would be an instant smash hit.


      • Posted by Tough Love on April 10, 2015 at 3:54 pm

        Have you considered masquerading as someone of intelligence ?


        • Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2015 at 6:20 pm

          bwahahahah, the candidates of the rich never win in NJ, that is hilarious. Then somebody please tell me why they never want to ever leave NJ!!!!!


        • Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2015 at 6:21 pm

          by golly I will follow your lead, you seem to be very successful with that masquerade yourself


  3. Am I the only one so tired of hearing this same story over and over? Shuffling the deck chairs on the Titantic as its sinking isn’t going to help. The sooner significant reforms are made, the better it will be for everyone.


    • Posted by dentss dunnigan on April 10, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      This is just another excuse to “get Christie ” ……we all know how this will end ,and it;s not good . so for another 1 1/2 years nothing done .A Democrat gets elected and will see what Christie sees …one hopeless pension without a chance in hell to it’s survival .Nibble around the edges a little higher tax a few cuts here and there …..and kick the can down the road .once again .


      • Posted by Tough Love on April 10, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        They kick the can down-the-road (aka … don’t fix it), because when the choices are (a) or (b) below, they choose (b), where:

        (a) VERY material reductions in promised pensions & benefit for all CURRENT workers (and possibly for those already retired)

        (b) Hoping for either a Federal Bailout, or (failing that), forcing NJ’s Taxpayers to continue to pay the full pensions once assets run out (in just a few years) on a pay-as-you-go basis out of annual revenue collections …. ignoring that doing so would necessitate MASSIVE tax increases or HUGE additional cuts in services….. neither of which will fly.

        And isn’t (b) EXACTLY the problem that Asemblyman Declan O’Scanlon described ….. the head-in-the-sand approach ?


        • Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm

          time to raise taxes on the rich, they have been sheltered long enough by their hand picked candidates.


          • Posted by Tough Love on April 10, 2015 at 3:59 pm

            The “candidates” of the rich never win in NJ. The NJ Legislator is stuffed with Public Sector Union …… in-the-Union’s-pocket/bought-and-paid-for …. Democrats.

    • Posted by skip3house on April 10, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      First ‘fix’ was Gov. Byrne’s NJ Income tax, to ease/replace soaring school property taxes, commonly hidden in mortgage payments to appear smaller.

      Abbotts ruling weakened this, even with progressive rates added.

      Then, there was the crew who advised Gov. Whitman to lower income tax rates at expense of higher school property taxes.

      Now, w/o an I&R quick system, (thanks, 1947) we can only hope NJ eliminates school property tax, replacing the revenue with fair, based on ability to pay NJ School Income Tax. Generally, medium families will pay $3000/yr less, as present system is heavily weighted in favor of the remaining NJ wealthy families now.


  4. Posted by javagold on April 11, 2015 at 12:49 am

    The public takers, might want to takers good look at NJ -% on this map…..and its ONKY going to get worse.


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