NJ Pension Payment Case an Award Winner

No word yet on whether the US Supreme Court will hear the New Jersey pension payment case this term but it’s already a winner for its lawyers.

Certiorari and amicus brief printer Supreme Court Press has named Christopher Burgos et al. v. State of New Jersey, Supreme Court Docket No. 15-293, to be its Petition of the Month for February and the announcement of the award released today had an interview with one of the plaintiff’s attorney, Lauren Sandy, that recapped the case and then got into implications:

tiny lion Would it be a satisfactory outcome that the increased employee contributions are eliminated?
tiny lion The only satisfactory outcome would be to require the payment guaranteed by statute. I don’t believe that eliminating the increased employee contributions would achieve the desired outcome. However, if the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision was to stand, the contract should be deemed unenforceable to both parties, which should in turn require that all State Troopers and other public employees be refunded the excess contribution under the law.  Which was certainly why the New Jersey Supreme Court was careful not to determine the law unconstitutional.  They, again, conveniently only determined that the statutory contract was unenforceable against the State.
tiny lion What do you think are bigger picture implications if the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision is allowed to stand? How has this affected labor relations in the state?
tiny lion Labor relations in the State of New Jersey have reached deplorable levels. Over the past several years, labor relations have dramatically declined.  The Governor has created statutory caps on raises, while requiring employees to contribute astronomically to their health insurance benefits, and then also failing to make contributions into their pension systems.  Public employees in the State of New Jersey are making far less than they were five years ago.

Without the intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, I fear that public employees will have no recourse for contractual and statutory violations which have effectively abrogated all of their rights.

49 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dentss dunnigan on February 25, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Well welcome to the club “Public employees in the State of New Jersey are making far less than they were five years ago.”………….When we consider all working-age men, including those who are not working, the real earnings of the median male have actually declined by 19 percent since 1970. This means that the median man in 2010 earned as much as the median man did in 1964 — nearly a half century ago. ….http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/the-uncomfortable-truth-about-american-wages/?_r=0

    Reply

  2. Posted by Tough Love on February 25, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    No wonder why lawyers are often called scum.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Now retired Pat on February 25, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I signed a 30 year-mortgage committment 25 years ago. However, I can no longer afford the payment if i also want to keep my Netflix, new car, wine.com membership, and cable TV with premium package and NFL ticket. I will call Quicken loans tomorrow and ask them if they will accept 40% of the required distribution. If they way “yes” then I will gladly forfeit some of that “excessive pension payment” If they stick to their guns and say, “no, a deal is a deal and you must abide by the terms of our agreement,” then I will not acquiesce 1 iota and will insist taxes be raised and other programs be cut in order to fund my original agreement. What say you?

    Reply

    • Quicken Loans does not employ nor get the benefit of corrupt politicians and crooked unions conjuring up sweetheart “contracts” that never should have been allowed to exist in the first place.

      Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on February 25, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      Should pensions be cut, you won’t be given a choice.

      Your pension check will go down and the bill for retiree healthcare will go up. Don’t pay the latter, and your coverage will end.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 12:13 am

        P.S. Mr.Bury figures that NJ is in the hole by $166 Billion just for PAST service accruals, and in his words, these Plans …. are “effectively bankrupt”.

        Yes, we know that YOU want all that was “promised”, no matter how unnecessary, unjust, unreasonable, and unaffordable those (Union “BOUGHT”) promises were, but when these Plans his zero assets and pay-go is the only option, I really doubt that services will be severely cut or taxes will be raised buy say $8 Billion just so your checks can keep coming.

        Better work on that …..”Plan B”.

        Reply

        • The worse it gets the better I like it. Collapse brings about all sorts of “cures”.

          Reply

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 1:25 am

            And “karma” for the decades of insatiable GREED.

          • Posted by Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 10:55 am

            TL, Karma works like this, a person constantly thinks/causes negativity towards an individual or group, the universe being receptive to the intent of these constant/ consistent thoughts/actions returns the negativity to the sender as a lesson, bigots, sexist, racist etc plot their own karmic experience, which means eventually TL your meanspirited rants will surely impact you, be prepared.

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 11:51 am

            Anon,

            I call for “fair and equal”. That’s “mean-spirited” in your mind, likely because for you personally (as one riding the is Public Sector gravy train) “fair and equal” means having to get less, FAR LESS. than you have been unnecessarily, unjustly, and unaffordably promised.

          • Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 2:07 pm

            You call for your interpretation of fair and equal, which we have all seen is defined by your simplistic and biased perspective of of relative pay and benefits.

            Hyperbole and illogical math are not very persuasive.

            And “tough love” is an oxymoron.

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 3:23 pm

            Yes SMD, I call for a common sense interpretation of “fair and equal” which (as I have responded to you before) is ….

            “At EVERY INCOME level, there is zero justification for compensating (in pay, pensions, and benefits) Public Sector workers more than what similar jobs (with similarly qualified employees) would pay in the Private Sector.

            And for Public Sector workers with the lowest incomes, if unable to meet basic needs, the Social Service system is the place to go to address those needs ….. just as it is for Private Sector workers.

            Public Sector workers are NOT “special” and deserving of a better deal ………… on the taxpayers’ dime”.

            ————————————————–

            How can that possibly be called (as you just did) ……….

            ” simplistic and biased perspective of of relative pay and benefits. ”
            ————————————————–

            You are just one of the many Public Sector workers/retirees benefiting from this theft of Private Sector Taxpayers wealth.

            Initially, what surprised me was the determination of your position (being a Public Sector workers who is ALREADY RETIRED) of advocating against reductions in the FUTURE Service accrual rate for current “actives” (something both legal and VERY common in Private Sector Plans).

            But I believe I know why, and it’s not the “they’re my “brothers” BS. It’s fear that the “actives” will look upon THEIR reductions as greater than they would otherwise need to be if the (also grossly excessive) pensions afforded those ALREADY RETIRED were to share in the pain and take similar cuts in THEIR pensions.

            It all come down to self-interest and GREED.

          • Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 4:27 pm

            Tough Love:

            “Taxpayer should fund towards Public Sector retiree healthcare an amount EQUAL to (but not more) than what THEY typically get from their employers towards their employer-sponsored retiree healthcare costs.

            And since for almost all Private Sector workers that is NOTHING today, that is what Taxpayers should contribute … NOTHING.”

            “Renegotiating retiree health care plans after new supreme court guidance”

            Brookings, May 7, 2015
            ______________________________________
            “Forty-five percent of all retirees ages 55 to 64 have retiree health coverage, 2012”

            (Retiree Health Benefits At the Crossroads
            Apr 14, 2014 | Frank McArdle,)
            ————————————–

            “Twenty-three percent of large firms (200 or more
            workers) that offer health benefits to their employees
            offer retiree coverage in 2015, similar to 25% in
            2014.”

            “Very large firms (5,000 or more workers) are
            more likely to offer retiree health benefits than
            firms with 200-999 workers (42% vs. 20%)”

            (Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits 2015 Annual survey)
            ____________________________________________
            Tough Love: “for almost all Private Sector workers that is NOTHING today”

            I acknowledge that public workers are much more likely to have retiree healthcare, but “NOTHING” for “almost all Private Sector workers” is a gross exaggeration, as are many of your “opinions” about private sector pay and pensions.

            And New Jersey police Officers don’t “typically” make $125,000 in base salary.

            Hyperbole?
            Bias?
            (Willful) ignorance?

            There is a wealth of information on public sector pay and benefits. Not so much for the private sector. This makes comparisons questionable, at best.

            perhaps “GREED” is in the eye of the beholder.

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 5:00 pm

            Yes SMD

            GREED is indeed in the eye of the beholder ….. and Private Sector Taxpayers have been “eyeing” & “beholding” a greater deal of that GREED for a LONG time, most of it sourcing back to and having as it’s ROOT CAUSE, the grossly excessive Pensions & Benefits the Public Sector Unions have BOUGHT from our self-interested Elected Officials with Union camapign contributions and election support.

            It’s WAY past time to put an end to this and for all CURRENT, not just new workers.

          • Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 7:08 pm

            Tough Love:

            “Initially, what surprised me was the determination of your position (being a Public Sector workers who is ALREADY RETIRED) of advocating against reductions in the FUTURE Service accrual rate for current “actives” (something both legal and VERY common in Private Sector Plans).”

            I noticed. You get “surprised” quite often. Also confused, illogical, misinformed (and misinforming), and petulant. I don’t recall “advocating” against reductions in the future accruals for current actives. It has already occurred and is still occurring in many jurisdictions. Via the collective bargaining process. In many state and local governments it can be done unilaterally. I have said that in some cases, attempts to legislate future reductions would result in onerous legal actions, and rightfully so.
            _____________________________________
            “And for Public Sector workers with the lowest incomes, if unable to meet basic needs, the Social Service system is the place to go to address those needs ….. just as it is for Private Sector workers.”

            Simplistic and biased. On so many levels. If you listen to Grover Norquist, (First Starve the Beast, Then Starve Education and Social Services) there would be fewer, if any, social services. Then some private sector employers would be forced to pay their workers enough to live without taxpayer subsidies. Is there any inherent difference between paying a worker a living wage, or subsidizing an equivalent private sector worker with the same (taxpayer) money?

            “Study: Welfare pays more than work in most states”

            Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/08/20/study-welfare-pays-more-than-work-in-most-states/#ixzz41JCHuwPS

            That “study” is bulls-hit, of course, but so is the blanket statement: “And for Public Sector workers with the lowest incomes, if unable to meet basic needs, the Social Service system is the place to go to address those needs ….. just as it is for Private Sector workers.”

            That’s your opinion. No more, no less.

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 8:01 pm

            (1) Quoting SMD …

            “I don’t recall “advocating” against reductions in the future accruals for current actives. It has already occurred and is still occurring in many jurisdictions. Via the collective bargaining process.”

            Sounds like more “smoothing” N0t against such reductions? Then state so definitively …. that you support reducing the FUTURE Service pay, pensions, and benefits of all CURRENT workers (at ALL income levels) such that their “Total Compensation” is EQUAL TO …but NO MORE than their Private Sector counterparts.

            Don’t weasel out …. state so.

            —————————-

            (2) Quoting SMD …

            And no, my statesmen …”“And for Public Sector workers with the lowest incomes, if unable to meet basic needs, the Social Service system is the place to go to address those needs ….. just as it is for Private Sector workers.”

            isn’t …”Simplistic and biased. “. It’s calling for “EQUAL”, that Public Sector workers in comparable jobs should make total compensation EQUAL TO their Private Sector counterparts …. and NOT unnecessarily and artificiality raised simply because their UNIONS BUYS favorable votes of NJ’s elected Officials. It’s an unnecessary THEFT of Taxpayer wealth ….plan and simple.

          • Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 9:21 pm

            “Then state so definitively …. that you support reducing the FUTURE Service pay, pensions, and benefits of all CURRENT workers (at ALL income levels) such that their “Total Compensation” is EQUAL TO …but NO MORE than their Private Sector counterparts.”

            LOL!!!

            DANGER!!! DANGER!!! Logical inconsistency!!!

            “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

            (It’s a question that demands a yes or no answer, but either response requires the respondent to affirm a) having a wife and b) having beaten her in the past, and then to either confirm or deny an intent to keep doing so. Someone unmarried or who doesn’t beat his or her wife has to reject the question outright.

            And, of course, simply by asking the question, the questioner has poisoned the well for any audience, leaving them with the sense that the respondent is a wife-beater, and any semblance of ambiguity in the reply will make the respondent seem even guiltier.)

            One more time; most studies say that on average, even with pensions and benefits, public and private total compensation is already roughly equal. One major study says that public sector workers have a ten percent advantage nationwide, and twenty three percent advantage in California and New Jersey (and Illinois and Rhode Island). Even that one study concedes that SOME public sector workers clearly earn lower total compensation than the private sector.

            And, of course, ALL those studies rely on data four to ten years old. Ten very volatile years.
            ___________________________________________
            ” It’s an unnecessary THEFT of Taxpayer wealth”

            is YOUR OPINION!!!

            ….plan and simple.

          • Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 9:30 pm

            Now look what you made me do!!!

            Caps Lock!!!

            Internet code for yelling

            “You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument.” – Samuel Johnson

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 26, 2016 at 11:09 pm

            SMD, More “smoothing” :…

            And since when is advocacy for “Fair and Equal” and advocy for “Equal but not better” and challenging your weasel-like double negative response to REAL support for FUTURE Service Public Sector pension-accrual-rate reductions a……”Logical inconsistency”.

            Just more of your “smoothing” …… and rightful fear than WHEN (not IF) the FUTURE Service pensions of “Actives” are indeed reduced, YOUR pension (as one already retired) will shortly thereafter be on the chopping block for justifiable reduction as well.

          • Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 27, 2016 at 12:29 am

            You’re being redumbdant. Say good night, Gracie.

        • Posted by Anonymous on February 27, 2016 at 1:35 pm

          Reply to thyself, no IP address required…..

          Reply

  4. Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 26, 2016 at 4:39 am

    Plan B:
    New York Times:

    ” Treasury Plan for Puerto Rico Favors Pensions Over Bondholders”

    Reuters:

    ” U.S. Treasury helped craft plan to protect Puerto Rico pensioners over bondholders -document, sources”

    Bloomberg:

    ” Puerto Rico Risks Dangerous Precedent by Protecting Pensions”

    Stockton,
    San Bernardino,
    Etc.
    Etc.
    Etc.

    Reply

    • Posted by dentss dunnigan on February 26, 2016 at 11:12 am

      The root of the problem is Puerto Rico’s economy, which no longer reflects the island’s name. Only 40 percent of the adult population is even in the workforce, with about a third working for the government, paid by the Island’s taxpayers. With 12.5% unemployment, the Island’s population is declining, down 5% in the last 5 years. Those leaving are the most productive professionals, taking their incomes and tax payments with them..Because Puerto Ricans are American citizens who need no special permission to move to the mainland, both the island’s best and brightest and the unskilled workers rendered unemployable by the artificially high minimum wage have left in large numbers…..Could be an article about New Jersey as well …

      Reply

    • I saw that and was going to do a post on what those committees do. I found a link where it seems like they are made up of a bunch of people who would be in Trenton anyway who meet around lunchtime every other month to oppose some laws:
      http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/boards_links.shtml

      But first I think I’ll get in a run, ala Bill Murrary – at 17 minutes of this clip:

      Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on February 28, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      What’s the likelihood that material healthcare savings will occur when you need 7 affirmative Committee votes and 6 of the 12 Committee members represent the Unions?

      It’s doesn’t work that way in the Private Sector, where a Senior management committee (of high-level company “management” employees) determines how much the company can afford to and is willing to spend on healthcare, and then (usually with the advice of consultants) designs such a Plan. The rank and file can offer “suggestions”, but effectively have ZERO input into the actual “decision”.

      The problem is easily identified in this quote….

      “David Jones, a retired president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association and health benefits committee member, said trying to identify savings and build the best plans for the lowest cost is part of their charter, with or without instructions from the governor.”

      Building ….” the best plans for the lowest cost” … is an oxymoron.. You can’t have both, and I’m certain what he MEANS is that …. we WILL have the BEST Plans, and THEN try to get it at the lowest cost.

      That’s the problem, there is zero justification for Taxpayers contributing more to Public Sector worker Plans than THEY typically get from their employers…..which means that unless the Public Sector workers don’t want to double AGAIN what THEY now pay, the “generosity’ of their Plans MUST come way down.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on February 28, 2016 at 1:23 pm

        Does the end justify the means? Clearly in your private sector example it does. Why? Because those top level executives, typically America’s top 1%, NEVER lose and usually benefit financially from their board room shenanigans. Which leaves the rank and file middle class paying their way. Equal to not better than ALL taxpayers including publics. No BS about if that was happening the total dollar amount is insignificant and it doesn’t justify, in your words, another “wrong”. Yes I know what your mom use to say but what would she think now? Not your skewed filtered bias opinion.

        Reply

        • Posted by Sean on February 28, 2016 at 4:45 pm

          Anonymous: “Not your skewed filtered bias opinion.”

          Says the pot to the kettle. So, you think TL is being hypocritical, yet you are doing the same thing. When you say, “No BS about if that was happening the total dollar amount is insignificant and it doesn’t justify, in your words, another “wrong” and when you speak of “boardroom shenanigans,” it is simply astounding to me that you can say all of this, and not ONCE, not even ONCE, can you see the backroom shenanigans of the public sector unions, making deal after deal, with ZERO regard for the benefit of the common good. You are completely blinded to the truth: ANY special interest group that “negotiates” on its own behalf, WITHOUT those paying for it being PRESENT AT THE TIME, will simply continue to give themselves more and more. It is simply human nature.

          The GOOD news, for taxpayers, is that this particular special interest group (public unions) will eventually cannibalize itself. There is actually NOTHING that needs to be done; it will take care of itself. There are not enough tax increases that will fix it, there will not be a booming economy, a booming stock market, or booming real estate prices that will fix it. No. Even after this bull market of more than seven years, these funds, and funds everywhere, are lagging hopelessly behind in their funding. And the funding levels will only get worse. It is a runaway freight train. So, we can bloviate, pontificate, and speculate all we want. It will have exactly zero effect on the outcome. The refusal to accept the changes that will be forced on its recipients will do nothing but make the changes more painful.

          This is a bubble. All bubbles burst. There are no exceptions.

          Reply

          • Posted by Anonymous on February 28, 2016 at 5:09 pm

            True just like the mortgage bubble that burst and the Federal taxpayers bailed the financials out. For the record my reply addressed TL’s praise for the PRIVATE sector which I noticed you to conviently avoided. My reply never confirmed nor denied anything with respect to the Public’s. So BS on Sean……

          • Posted by Sean on February 28, 2016 at 6:59 pm

            If I misunderstood the point you were trying to make, I apologize. I was interpreting your response differently than the way you meant it. Sorry. : )

          • Posted by Tough Love on February 29, 2016 at 12:13 am

            Anon, Where was my “praise” of the PRIVATE Sector? What I stated (above) was nothing more than a DESCRIPTION of how it works.

            Had you stated that my intent was to imply that the practices common in PUBLIC Sector are abusive and outrageous, I wouldn’t disagree at all.

        • Posted by Tough Love on February 29, 2016 at 12:05 am

          Quoting Anon,

          “No BS about if that was happening the total dollar amount is insignificant and it doesn’t justify, in your words, another “wrong”. ”

          No offense intended, but English like this gives me a headache…..just struggling to determine what you intended to say.

          Reply

          • Posted by Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 10:39 am

            Take two publics and don’t call me in the morning.

          • Posted by Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 11:10 am

            Selected copy and paste. I guess your limited comprehension doesn’t allow for following a multi sentence thought. No offense taken or intended.

  5. Posted by S Moderation Anonymous on February 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    “In 2015, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance are $6,251 for single coverage and $17,545 for family coverage….”

    Of these amounts, the employer $12,591, and the employee $4,955 for family coverage.
    For single coverage, the employer contributed $5,179, vs. $1,071 from the employee.

    How does this compare to New Jersey public employees?

    http://kff.org/report-section/ehbs-2015-summary-of-findings/

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on February 28, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      SMD, NJ’s “paying” on average approximately twice the amount you’ve mentioned. This is for anyone participating in the State Health Benefits Program where NJDirect, administered by HBCBSNJ, is the baseline coverage. It should be noted the State is self insured/funded and that calculated premiums are based on actual/projected claims.

      Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on February 29, 2016 at 12:21 am

      Dear Private Sector NJ Taxpayers ……………..

      Raise you hand if YOU are currently earning anything toward retiree healthcare (beyond $300-$400 annually in to a retiree HSA).

      If not …..ask your town’s Elected officials WHY you should be contributing towards such benefits for the Town’s workers.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Smooth Moderation Anonymous on February 29, 2016 at 3:19 am

    You forgot about the parking?
    Most public workers get free parking at work. Private sector workers usually pay for their own.

    My boss says, as a retiree, I can park in any state lot.

    Raise your hand if you get free parking.

    Reply

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