Teachable Moment in New Jersey

” If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning”
~ His Burial Too (c) Catherine Aird 1973

Three months after a roadmap to resolution of the pension problem in New Jersey was released we are at a standstill.  An njspotlght story updated what is going on (or more accurately not going on) and ended with this quote:

“It’s really not in anybody’s interest to have the state become insolvent,” Byrne said. “Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together.”

Leaving aside the question of what insolvency would look like there is an obvious public purpose served by having New Jersey go insolvent.

If New Jersey can get away with over-promising and underfunding pensions and benefits through a combination of willful ignorance and an actuarial/political cabal that puts no brakes on either greed or fecklessness then this warped process of governing  becomes a paradigm to emulate rather than a cancer to be excised.

And we are certainly not all “in this together”:

  1. Campaign donors want wasteful spending to continue so they get a return on their investment
  2. Politicians want wasteful spending to continue so they get those campaign donations
  3. Pensioners and retirees want their promised benefits from whatever source
  4. Taxpayers want their services without paying full price for them and certainly without paying any price for prior services provided
  5. Christie wants to be president

If insolvency can make all this go away then why not?

 

 

63 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 10:15 am

    For TLs eyes, Taxpayers want their services without paying full price for them and certainly without paying any price for prior services provided

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 10:37 am

      Actually we (the Taxpayers) would be tickled pink to just not have to overpay/over-promise ……. as are the pension & benefit promises in place right now.

      Reply

    • Posted by dentss dunnigan on May 18, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Having the highest tax burden of any state what part of “not paying for services” am i missing ?….

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 1:26 pm

        Well Said !

        The Publics can’t (or refuse to) see the connection between EXCESSIVE pensions & benefits and UNNECESSARILY high taxes ….. and WORSE, they don’t care, as long as they get “theirs”.

        Reply

  2. Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I’m not surprised that we are at a “standstill”. With one of NJ biggest problems being VERY high property taxes, any “shift” of STATE responsibility for Teacher pensions and Teacher retiree healthcare costs to LOCALITIES … MUST … come with assurances that BOTH at the time of change and in all future years …… the incremental cost from taking those on will indeed be offset via SAVINGS from Local healthcare costs via a lessening of the healthcare benefit now provided to ALL Local workers (both active and retired).

    Logistically, that seems near impossible to accomplish.

    Even “if” the trade were cost-neutral as the time of implementation, Union actions (greed) would ASSUREDLY mess things up, because while the Local take-overs would be irreversible, I have ZERO doubt that the Unions would immediately begin badgering Local City Councils to ratchet back UP the offsetting healthcare reductions.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 10:59 am

    On point with blog’s topic; all public workers, their family, friends, and supporters need to stop patronizing individuals and businesses who don’t support us. This includes Federal workers and Armed Forces members.

    Reply

    • Posted by bpaterson on May 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      suggestion to anon 10:59-to find those businesses that do support the govt, go the ELEC website and find the businesses that donate to the politicians campaigns. However, you may find that all those are just consultants, engineers, info tech, financial and lawyer firms, so if you are not building a pool, investing or suing, you may starve.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 11:12 am

    I know not another study but….
    We need to expedite a panel compromised of all stakeholders (R’s, D’s, Unions, individual & business taxpayers) size needs to be manageable with equal representation from all sides. Their plan will be viewed by NJ as independent and honest, maybe it’ll be the same as Christie’s Commission, maybe more severe, maybe less – who knows we’ll leave the results up to them. Maybe all stakeholders need to consent to an independent arbitrator to settle this matter?

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      “Negotiating” the very MAJOR and necessary pension & benefit givebacks from the WORKERS via a panel including the workers would be nothing but a waste of time.

      When Private Sector employers need to reduce compensation due to financial issues, they don’t ask the employees to “negotiate” the amount or type of reductions.

      Reply

  5. Posted by dentss dunnigan on May 18, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Now why do you suppose this is …………from corrupt unions to corrupt politicians ..http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/05/18/unions-pour-millions-into-clinton-foundation/

    Reply

  6. Posted by twentysixpointtwo on May 18, 2015 at 11:43 am

    The ever-present use of the word “greed” on this forum is aimed 180’ the wrong direction. Greed, something which can never be satisfied, involves acquiring goods at the expense of others through the use of lies and deceit. Pubic employees, seeking only what they contracted and worked for are the ones who have been deceived. A lifetime of work for a contracted compensation, now being withheld or adjusted downward-after their work has been provided -that money may be spent, squandered, or misappropriated elsewhere is the ultimate theft and deception. I cannot go back and reclaim my life’s work; the state should not go back and reclaim my contracted and earned deferred compensation.
    As an aside, neither a public pension -nor a public salary, makes most recipients “rich”. Ohh those avaricious public employees who never did an honest day’s labor to keep you and your families safe, healthy, or educated sitting atop piles of taxpayer booty (sarc,) – not my reality.

    Reply

    • No comment on the worth of any public employee since that is on an individual basis. Some public employees are worth much more to me than they are being paid and some are worth much less (even negative amounts based on the damage they do). If an employee can get $250,000 in pension benefits and returns more than that then fine. My point is that those costs are hidden for expediency. For example, the Scotch Plains Business administrator (a politician who cashed in with this job) is currently accumulating that much in pension benefits in his job but Scotch Plains is only paying about 20% of that since their contributions are a percentage of payroll. Until public plans are funded Unit Credit under truly independent assumptions or pensions go Defined Contribution there will be this gaming of the system. If we ever get past that problem then we can have an honest discussion of the worth of public labor.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 12:17 pm

        TL is a generalizing bigot when it comes to state workers, nothing more, nothing less. Prejudice is predicated on generalization. You find one person who commits a disdainful act and you then judge the rest of the group for what this person has done. You also treat them as if they were the ones who committed the act. Very unhealthy was of thinking.

        Reply

        • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 2:44 pm

          When it comes to strongly protesting against such gross excess, unfairness, and unaffordability as the CURRENT structure of NJ’s Public Sector pensions, such actions hardly meet the definition of bigotry.

          I suggest you look up “greed” and see if that accurately fits the actions and mindset of Pubic Sector Unions and workers.

          Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Quoting … ” Greed, something which can never be satisfied, involves acquiring goods at the expense of others through the use of lies and deceit.”

      I can think of little that so perfectly fits the above definition of GREED as the pensions & benefits now promised Public Sector workers.

      * Clearly Public Sect workers can NEVER be “satisfied”. Has there EVER not be a long list of pension & benefits enhancements being pushed upon our Elected Officials by the Unions ?

      *Are not the very clearly EXCESSIVE pensions & benefits … at the expense of OTHERS (the Taxpayers) ?

      * Have their excessive pension & benefit “promises” not been granted via BUYING the favorable votes of our elected officials ….. i.e., via the use of lies and deceit ?

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 7:10 pm

        So very funny and ridiculous you are TL. Private sector workers are considering smart and with their rights to get as much as they can when it comes to salary and benefits. If they succeed they are not called greedy. You really make yourself look like an idiot sometime. Have you ever read what you have written

        Reply

        • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 10:23 pm

          Anon,

          The Private Sector is not one homogenous group moving in lock-step. MOST gain advantage and financial rewards through hard, but some do indeed game the system and gain wealth and advantage through deceit, bribery, and the like.

          But NOWHERE but in the Public Sector is there an ENTIRE class of workers (EVERYONE) whose MAIN advantage (grossly excessive pensions & benefits) has so singularity been gained through collusion between their Unions and the Elected Officials whose favorable votes (on pay, pensions, and benefits) were BOUGHT with Public Sector Union campaign contributions and election support. In any other venue, it would criminal racketeering and bribe giving and accepting.

          Reply

          • Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 10:28 pm

            Make sure you vote for Jeb Bush. “potential GOP presidential nominee Jeb Bush explained that a “tolerant country” should make room for “people of faith” to discriminate against others.” He doesnt think business should have to serve gay people. I am not gay but I cannot believe what I am hearing.

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      twentysixpointtwo,

      I noticed the following buried within your comment …”AFTER their work has been provided”…. my emphasis on the word “AFTER”

      Are you aware that the NJ pension commission’s proposal does not recommend PAST service pension reductions (with which I mostly agree), but recommends FUTURE only service reductions ?

      Can I take your above statement as an affirmation from you that PAST Service accruals must be honored while FUTURE service pension accruals should be subject to reduction …. just as such FUTURE Service reductions are both legal and routine in PRIVATE Sector pension Plans ?

      I’m quite sure your are aware that your UNIONS have forever taken the position that FUTURE service pensions accruals are ALSO protected. What makes PUBLIC Sector workers deserving of not only MUCH greater pensions and MUCH better benefits, but also far superior protections from reduction …. even for service NOT YET EARNED ?

      Reply

  7. John, I believe you wrote in another blog that the best thing that can happen (or the worst) is that nothing gets done regarding pension reform. Do nothing and who knows what will happen.

    Reply

    • Doesn’t sound like me except if I was referring to current retirees where doing nothing would keep them at current payout levels (and even higher if/when COLAs come back) and who have nothing to gain from any changes. I doubt they would expect to have another DiFranceso-reform where of 2001 when their pensions all got bumped up 9%.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm

        At the top of list of reforms should be a reversal of that 9% outright “theft” of taxpayer wealth … for all “actives” as well as those already retired.

        Reply

        • Only in a situation where inmates are running the prison (as is the case with NJ and its public sector employees) would “management”, in this case the idiot DiFranceso, grant an across the board 9% increase in pension payouts (including his own, I’m sure). I love it. Pension payout increases for no reason; “longevity” bonuses for employees who aren’t going anywhere because they have no other skills… on and on in a twilight zone scenario. Welcome to NJ. What a POS state.

          Reply

          • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 12:36 am

            Not only “longevity” bonuses for “actives” not likely to leave, it ALSO was given to those ALREADY retired.

            Simply unbelievable.

  8. Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    If America is unfortunate enough to have a Republican in the White Hose with majority support in both Houses they’ll pass legislation allowing State’s to file for bankruptcy. That’ll be NJ and other States out from all of this but it will be at the expense of forgoing their right to budgetary control because a judge or court appointed trustee will be involved in the financial decisions.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      The way bankruptcy cases have been shaking out several California Cites is a loss of retiree healthcare benefits but no reduction in pensions, PAST or FUTURE service related (although the Courts have clearly stated that pension reductions WOULD be allowed) and with NON-Public-Sector-worker-creditors taking a HUGE financial hit.

      Hardly seems fair to taxpayer (and certainly not to those creditors) as taking away retire healthcare benefit puts them in effectively the SAME position as Private Sector Taxpayers, who RARELY get ANY employer-sponsored healthcare benefits any longer, yet leaves them (even for FUTURE Service) with the SAME Grossly Excessive pensions that got them into this mess in the first place.

      Witness Vallejo, California … as a result of failing to lower Future Service pension accruals, it will likely be BACK in Bankruptcy in just a few years.

      At least in the Detroit Bankruptcy, FUTURE Service pension accruals were reduced (with minimal reductions to Past Service accruals).

      Reply

  9. Posted by truthnolie on May 18, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Add the lying, overstating, incompetent Gov’s much heralded “ROADMAP” as one of many streamers on his Flag of Failure:

    http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/15/05/17/local-governments-may-be-steering-clear-of-christie-s-pension-reform-roadmap/#

    Reply

  10. Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    That’s why there needs to be a clear divide between state and local plans. No reason to punish one for the inadequacies of the other!!!

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 10:36 am

      A mid 60s “funding ratio” under the new GASB standards for the LOCAL pension plans is very near “toilet-level” to be rather frank.

      So can all the lies that they’re in fine shape. Being in better shape than the “already-in-the-toilet” STATE plans is not a good standard against which to compare.

      Reply

      • Posted by BH on May 19, 2015 at 8:43 pm

        The new funding guidelines are BS!!!
        The pensions were only funded in the 50% area back in the 1970’s. It wasn’t even until the market swung up that these funds became anywhere close to 100%. Since nj still lags behind…. A surge in the market will boost all these pensions back up.

        Reply

        • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 9:09 pm

          Interestingly, I agree with you (that the “new funding guidelines are BS”), not for the reasons YOU think, but because the GASB “caved” under pressure to NOT insist upon lower ( and CERTAINLY more reasonable and appropriate) liability discount rates even for the portion of Plan Liabilities supportable (at the time of calculation) by actual Plan assets. The ridiculous RESULT is that a reasonably well funded Plan can STILL assume it will 7.9% forever.

          Had the methodology that the US Gov’t REQUIRES of Private Sector pension Plans been made that standard for PUBLIC Sector Plans, the resultant funding ratios would be even FAR lower.

          ———————————-

          P.S. I don’t expect that you will understand anything that I stated above …. because you know squat about pension funding, but have a PHD in “greed”.

          Reply

  11. Taxpayers wanting services without paying the full price? That is the most idiotic comment I have ever read anywhere on either side of the Atlantic. Nice going Mr. Bury.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      It’s NOT … “Taxpayers wanting services without paying the full price ”

      It’s Taxpayers ALREADY paying too much for a half-basket of mediocre services.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 11:05 pm

        You think it’s mediocre now?! – wait till salary and benefits are cut like you dream of – current workers will become even more complacent & I shudder to think what the new hires will be like

        Reply

        • Posted by Anonymous on May 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm

          I want TL to watch this video very carefully and listen to Chris not only saying it is now the law to make the pension payment, he will even try to pay more than the 1/7 kind of like prepaying your mortgage He is a liar, Okay I am ready for you to defend him so I can get a good laugh. Also try to remember this when he tells you that if he reduces the insurance to gold that will assure that you will pay no more taxes and solve the pension crisis. He cut out the COLAs and that really did not help did it??

          Reply

          • Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 11:26 pm

            Cutting out the COLAs is his singular accomplishment of material value …. IF they stay suspended for a LONG time.

          • Posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2015 at 3:44 am

            although you have absolutely nothing to say in his defense otherwise, you have heard his blatant lies and you make no attempt to save him from himself.

          • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 10:28 am

            I’m not here to defend Christie, but because being very knowledgeable on the subject, I’m FED UP with the Public Sector pension/benefit-caused financial “mugging” perpetrated upon NJ’s Taxpayers, AND what the continued impact of these grossly excessive pensions & benefits “promises” will be to NJ taxes and services ……….. unless stopped.

            I strongly advocate for necessary, just, and fair pension/benefit Plan reductions for all CURRENT workers. In fact, all I have ever called for is that Taxpayer contributions toward Public Sector pensions & benefits be EQUAL TO (as a % of pay) the contributions of Private Sector employers toward their workers’ pensions & benefits.

            With Public Sector workers rarely making less in cash pay (and often more), there is ZERO justification for Taxpayers to contribute MORE towards Public Sector worker pensions & benefits than what THEY get from their employers.

            Got a problem with EQUAL ?

          • Posted by BH on May 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm

            TL has nowhere left to go. They know very well that the reason we are in this mess is simply because the administrations have failed to make the required payments into the pension funds. Decades of abuse has caused them to now become unsustainable. When these funds were robbed to pay for pet projects, subsidies and tax breaks, the workers got screwed. Now the funds are short, and you people blame the workers. Should be ashamed!!!! Pay these people their money. Make the payments!!!!! It’s the right thing to do.

          • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm

            BH,

            You have repeatedly raised this SAME issue, essentially arguing that IF (yes IF) the full required payments were made we wouldn’t be in this mess. But you refuse to “Look Under The Hood” as to the Root Cause of the problem.

            As I have stated numerous times before, the lack of adequate State/City “funding” is not the CAUSE of the pension mess in which we now find ourselves, but a CONSEQUENCE of the problem’s ROOT CAUSE, that being being grossly excessive pension GENEROSITY …. as I demonstrated in my 2 long comments to Mr. Bury’s blog article … “It’s embarrassing, and I’m tired of hearing this I want what I was promised”.

        • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 10:48 am

          Quoting Anonymous …”You think it’s mediocre now?! – wait till salary and benefits are cut like you dream of – current workers will become even more complacent”.

          Give some thought to that comment …. WHY in the PUBLIC Sector should we (the Taxpayers) not have a VERY QUICK process available to us to terminate such workers …. as they would be if employed in the Private Sector?

          Reply

          • Posted by BH on May 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm

            Well, thank god, but you ain’t gonna get what you want TL.

          • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 5:06 pm

            Yea BH … …….you “thank God” that those workers who might …”become even more complacent” ….. can’t easily be punished.

            Just the kind of Public Sector “mindset” that need to be exercised.

      • “Posted by Tough Love on May 18, 2015 at 10:28 pm
        It’s NOT … “Taxpayers wanting services without paying the full price ”
        It’s Taxpayers ALREADY paying too much for a half-basket of mediocre services”

        Umm, yeah, that was kinda my point. It has been clear to me for some time that the actuary responsible for this blog knows on which side his bread is buttered (the fantasy land public sector workers side) and his comment above betrays his loyalties.

        Which is fine, TL, but don’t kid yourself by appealing to his regard for the taxpayer as you are wont to do…

        Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Not modest when rightfully compared to what similarly situated PRIVATE Sector workers get…… and with PRIVATE Sector taxpayers footing almost all Plan costs, THEY, not OTHER over-pensioned and over-benefited PUBLIC Sector workers, are the appropriate group against which the generosity of Plan costs should be compared..

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2015 at 2:05 pm

        Might be useful information for companies comparable in size, including all levels of employees.

        Reply

        • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm

          I would WELCOME such comparisons …. as Public Sector pensions & benefits are FAR in excess of even the most generous Private Sector Plans offered today.

          Reply

          • Posted by BH on May 19, 2015 at 2:55 pm

            June will come and go without so much as a whisper of any pension reforms!!!
            Keep spinning the equal and fair crap until you’re blue in the face. Ain’t gonna happen because the public sector safety workers are not equal.

          • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 5:12 pm

            BH, And all that will do is bring us CLOSER to the demise of YOUR promised pensions.

            Are you working on that “Plan B” for your retirement needs ?

  12. Posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2015 at 9:53 am

    The pending COLA litigation might be averted if the State proposed an optional retiree funded COLA thru a reduction in their base allowance. Don’t know enough about the legal proceedings and I’m sure someone would challenge this as well. However, the COLA would be available at the retiree discretion which they are not now.

    Reply

    • Posted by BH on May 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      COLA will be reinstated as soon as the local funds hit 80% which they will very soon. Once the SC rules with the unions and the administration is forced to make the required payments. And thank god because these people have been living without a COLA for years now. Enough is enough!!! Pay these workers their due!!!

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2015 at 4:23 pm

        Are you dreaming? reach 80 percent very soon, what are you smoking? I retired 4 1/2 years ago and never got COLA , I was disappointed since my pension is only 17k

        Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on May 19, 2015 at 7:27 pm

        BH, Interesting comment …

        (1) While the NJ SC may indeed reverse the COLA suspension, doing so will only run Plan assets down to ZERO sooner … bye-bye pensions. And Even if the the SC let’s it stand, I REALLY doubt that a lifting of the COLA suspension (via reaching 80% funding) could be based on anything OTHER THAN GASB-calculated numbers (not the phoney methodology in place until recently), and with LOCAL plan funding ratios in the mid 60s and STATE Plan funding ratios in the 40s, it will be many years (if EVER) before the COLAs are reinstated.

        (2) Quoting “And thank god because these people have been living without a COLA for years now. ” Private Sector pensions Plans NEVER include COLAs …. what makes Public Sectors workers so “special” that THEY deserve a better deal on the Taxpayers’ dime ?

        Reply

        • Posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2015 at 9:30 pm

          so in TLs own word Christie only prolonged the worst by stopping COLAS, what a grand idea he implemented. Drag things out so tax payers and continue to pay

          Reply

  13. Posted by Anonymous on May 23, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    TL and devout followers; individuals presenting a right wing conservative perspective based on half-truths and lies.

    TL continual posts repetitive misinformation citing sources with extreme ideology. Yet sumarial dismisses other posts with conflicting opinions and sources.

    Specifically, purposely misstated the tax status of public pensions in the following post; https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/christie-curses-out-nj-media/#comments When called to task tried to double talk their way out of it. Standard operating procedure for most of their commentary.

    Fair and equal for all is the mantra. Fair enough, but not when I suggest Federal workers and members of our beloved Armed Forces be part of the bigger conversation. The response, they’re different. But why, because they risk their lives like first responders at home. Their DBP are paid with Federal tax dollars as opposed to State or Local. Everyone knew the job risks when they accepted employment. But they also knew what their salary, pension, and benefits were supposed to be.

    To blame and demonize public workers for the current situation is unfair and untrue. Do politicians make “deals” with unions that don’t always have the taxpayers best interest? I think everyone knows the answer to that is yes. But politicians are always making “deals” it’s what they do. Just ask the various segment market corporations; defense spending (lucrative contracts), farming (subsidies) and the list goes on and on.

    Your bully tactics and demeaning attitude only motivate me more to push back your parties ridiculous vision for NJ and America. Yes I’m sure John knows all of our IP address, so you and your business name can be exposed as well.

    The purpose of continually posting this comment is to allow the counterpoint perspective to be heard. I will no longer personally engage your comments tit for tat.

    Reply

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