NJ COLA Case Orals (1) – Videos

Berg v. Christie was argued today in the New Jersey Supreme Court and for those interested here is most of it:

State case (partial):




State rebuttal:

Ouslander rebuttal:

The sentiment, based on early polling, is mixed as to whether COLAs will return.  After listening to these arguments is it any clearer?

PS: This blog will likely be Christie-free from now on as he will probably have very little to do with any pension and benfit reforms in New Jersey (or practically anything else to do with New Jersey) but this item screams for notice.

46 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pauline Walnuts on March 14, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for putting this up. Going by the judges questioning it sounds like they will overturn.


  2. Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Hello Cola, Goodbye TL


    • Posted by Tough Love on March 14, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Hello Cola MEANS that the Plans go under 2 to 3 years SOONER.


    • Posted by Sean on March 14, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      You just. Don’t. Get it. Do you?

      Anonymous#1: “Oh yeah, TL? Well, well, you just wait and see. Just wait until the election.”

      Anonymous#2: “Yeah. Just you wait and see, TL. Next election, we’re going to get OUR guy in there, and OUR people in there, and we’re going to get everything back. Our COLAs, pay increases, and maybe even some more goodies!”

      Anonymous#1: “Yeah! We’re going to get everything we want, and we’ll run TL and all the other haters out of town!”

      Yup. You’re going to get everything you want, alright. Everything except…the money.

      As long as the shepherd sings a happy tune, the sheep will happily march right over the edge of the cliff.

      Have any of you ever considered the myriad trends that are shaping up, and gaining momentum, that are going to cause even greater strains to this situation? Here’s one, just for starters:

      “The Boomer money machine is gone, their Millennial kids are financially constrained, either with increasing college debt or the difficulty of getting a job without a college degree… and we Gen Xers, stuck in the middle, are so few compared to the Boomers who preceded us and the Millennials who come after. We can support only so much.

      The problem is now.” Here’s the link to that article:


      What about the effects of automation (robots) on future job prospects?



      • Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2016 at 11:11 pm

        If the ship goes down so do we all


        • Posted by dentss dunnigan on March 15, 2016 at 10:12 am

          Not really …if robots do every job and there are no workers ,people will have to turn to their own resources to live plus the government will give all citizens a stipend …..tax revenue no problem the US government will just keep printing


  3. Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    TL is dreaming that’s what she’s hoping for more like her taxes will go up for 7 or 8 years I guess we’ll just have to wait and see I’m thinking it’s more likely her taxes will rise so maybe she will leave New Jersey


    • Posted by dentss dunnigan on March 14, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      What taxes …CC will never approve it …He even just said it


      • Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2016 at 5:49 pm

        2017 is just around the corner


        • Posted by dentss dunnigan on March 14, 2016 at 6:05 pm

          Business can’t operate that way ….nothing worst than uncertaincty in a business ….So I guess it will keep them away till 2017 …not good for New Jersey


          • Posted by Tough Love on March 14, 2016 at 6:10 pm

            Till 2017?

            No, until the Pensions are frozen and retiree healthcare subsidies end.

            Then, NJ “may” be able to find a way to deal with the huge unfunded PAST service liability …. w/o huge reductions thereto.


  4. Posted by Eric on March 14, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I believe that Charles Ouslander was correct in his legal and his equitable arguments. People who served the state for many years, for modest pensions, like a relative of mine, whose husband retired, passed away, and now, she, the surviving spouse, so desperately needs the cost of living adjustment to help her finance her ever increasing premium for her health care coverage. The decedent’s state coverage had a non-survivable spousal feature. She, the surviving spouse, cannot go back to work as a seamstress. She suffers from dementia and is 81 years old.
    Equity should lift her “boat” since her deceased husband retired prior to the enactment of the non-forfeitable right statute in 1997.
    In 1997, the legislature, with the plain language of the statute, stated that the benefits program shall not be reduced. It, meaning the legislature, knew well enough to attach any limitation to the non-forfeitable right, and did so by excluding post-retirement medical benefits. The legislature knew how to avail itself of the very statute it created. Simple.
    I do not understand why that one Justice does not “get that.” She said that the state legislature could have provided a list in a definitional section stating that the non-forfeitable right includes or encompasses cost of living adjustments. The legislature never stated that the non-forfeitable right included base pensions, which are protected under this statute either, so what is the point? The words “base pensions” appear nowhere. The legislature chose to exclude a benefit item that did not belong which is its prerogative.
    Those who retired post1997 and pre 2011, when Chapter78 was enacted, have a legal non-forfeitable right to their entire pensions, in addition to the equitable remedy. I understand Ouslander completely. Why does this court not understand?
    I am no genus. Is this another example of NJ corruption?


    • Posted by Anonymous on March 15, 2016 at 12:59 am

      That broad was appointed by Christie……that should answer any question of her supposed inability to “get it” and whether it is an example of corruption.


    • Posted by Anonymous on March 15, 2016 at 1:13 am

      That judge broad who asked the question was appointed by Christie so it not a surprise in any way that she is trying not to “get it”……and the answer to your question about it being an example of NJ corruption should be evident.


  5. Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    TL move to Texas where you belong


    • Posted by Tough Love on March 15, 2016 at 12:34 am

      The more you Publics single me out (to complain about what I say and wish that I move away …. hoping that that will end my commentary), the more I know that you are running scared, because you also know what I say is true …. and your Plans are approaching survival on nothing but fumes.

      Better start working on the “Plan B” for your retirement needs.


      • Posted by Anonymous on March 15, 2016 at 5:17 am

        TL believe the best course of action is for the state to go bankrupt which of course she cannot do is somehow she feels this is going to help her


  6. Posted by Eric on March 15, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Going back to the arguments in this case in the courtroom, I liked what Justice Barry Albin had to say. How are normal, ordinary people supposed to rely upon a statute if it cannot be read for its plain meaning? Many times the handbooks that have been distributed to potential retirees have been compiled and approved by the Division of Pensions and Benefits. They all said that a cost of living adjustment would be given to a retiree. People relied upon these booklets to their detriment.
    Too much focus has been placed upon people “gaming the system” on this site, with huge pensions, and political connections. I understand that this is a problem. But what about “Joe Six Pack” with the tiny ranch home, mortgage, maybe one kid left in college, and a highly used pick up truck in the driveway that still may have a few payments left to be made. This person is the typical retiree who has been screwed by politics. This is the actual face of the typical retiree deserving a court’s protection.
    Should Joe Six Pay not rely upon his employer sponsored handbook which indicates that he can retire, since his retirement allotment should not be totally ravaged by the effects of inflation due to a cost of living adjustment? Perhaps he is also paying an ever increasing amount of his medical benefits. Should Joe Six Pay retain an attorney if he plans on retiring? Would the attorney be astute enough to even ascertain that there may be a problem due to politics? This case began in the Law Division was reversed in the Appellate Division, and now is resting in the most political court of all. What attorney, worth his or her salt, would even give odds or provide advice in this scenario to a client? Not many.


    • Question: were these workers promised a COLA when they were hired?

      Or were they retroactively granted one by a political deal in the 1999s or 2000, based on the assumption that the stock market would grow to the moon, and the people paying their pensions would also continue to be worse off?

      To me, that makes all the difference in the world. Others on both sides want to ignore that question. Was it raised in court?


    • Posted by WjcW on March 15, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Where was Albin when “Senators shall not be replaced on the ballot less then 39 days (was it?) before an election” or when “The state shall provide for a thorough and efficient SYSTEM of free public schools…”

      How were normal ordinary people supposed to realize that you could actually replace senators as long as you could print ballots, and that the constitution does actually guarantee the citizens a thorough and efficient education?


    • Posted by Benjamin on March 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      Just curious, Eric, did the state employee in your example bear any responsibility for paying attention to what was happening to the pension plan of which he or she was a beneficiary in regard to its fiscal management or mismanagement as the case may be? Is it perfectly acceptable that the pension plan’s beneficiaries bear no burden for insisting that their retirement plan be properly funded and the assets within properly managed even if that meant having to support increased taxes on themselves in order to fund both current government operations and sufficiently fund their retirement plan simultaneously? Is it perfectly acceptable to simply assume their fellow private-sector state citizens would make up any shortfall to their promised retirement benefits regardless of the magnitude of that shortfall? Is it perfectly acceptable that one generation of taxpayers is allowed to benefit from a certain level of current government spending by incurring debt to do so only to pass on the obligation to pay that debt to future generations?

      I get the old lady sob-story, appeal to people’s emotions approach, but when are we going to watch the entire movie and not just a few clips when determining how to address problems?


      • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 16, 2016 at 2:06 am

        We get the outrage over some of the higher pensions that are constantly cited as “excessive”. In reality, many of the highest pensions are one component of an overall compensation package that is lower than equivalent private sector workers. Ask me about the Michael Genest quote.

        Many of the most “modest” pensions are going to those who actually earned much more (total compensation) than they would have in the private sector. I personally don’t have a problem with this, but that is where a lot of the pension and healthcare costs are going.


  7. Posted by Eric on March 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Not only were the workers in this suit promised a cost of living adjustment at the time they were hired,but also they were promised a cost of living adjustment at the time they retired, and did so in reliance upon the law in existence at the time of their retirements.
    As Justice Barry Albin had asked, how can you plan your life around changes to your retirement after you have left your position in reliance upon the existing law governing your retirement?


    • So there was no retroactive pension increase in NJ? As there was in NYC (in 2000) and California (in 1999) and Illinois?


      “In 2001, the Legislature voted to increase teachers’ pensions by 9 percent, raising the plan’s total cost by an estimated $3.1 billion. Because New Jersey’s Constitution forbids creating debts without creating a funding source, the lawmakers needed to pay for it. They looked back to June 30, 1999, the height of the bull market.”

      Click to access pafundrpt.pdf

      “Legislation passed during 2001 (Chapter 4, P.L. 2001) provides increased benefits to certain members of the Consolidated Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund who retired prior to December 29, 1989 with at least 25 years of creditable service. The benefit increase is effective November 1, 2001. The maximum amount of the increase is 5% of the retiree’s final compensation. For those with 30 or more years of service, the total
      pension benefit would increase from 65% to 70% of final compensation. As a result of this legislation, cost-of-living benefits payable to eligible retirees will also increase.”

      “The State, not the local municipalities, will be responsible for these costs.”

      Now what I thought had happened was this. Christie, the unions, and Democratic legislators cut a deal to save the pensions. The retirees, in effect, gave up the benefit of their pension increases. And the taxpayers would start paying what they should for the pensions.

      None of that could make all the extra, unfunded payouts from 2001 to the deal go away, or make up for the taxpayers who didn’t put in enough and then move away. But it was “shared sacrifice” going forward.

      What has happened is both Christie/taxpayers and unions/retirees (by suing) have gone back on their half of the deal.

      In NYC, it is the unions who are evil, not taxpayers. In other places it is those clamoring for lower taxes, who did not pay for what was promised. NJ is evil all around.


    • Posted by MJ on March 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      If someone who still has a kid in college, car payments, mortgage etc then that individual is too young to be retiring but of course publics want to retire at 55 or 58 and expect all the rest of us to work until we are 85 to pay for it all


      • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 16, 2016 at 1:32 am

        “Gallup conducted several polls in the early 1990s and found that the average retirement age was 57 in both 1991 and 1993. From 2002 through 2012, the average hovered around 60. Over the past two years, the average age at which Americans report retiring has increased to 62.”

        85 is an extreme exaggeration.


  8. Posted by Eric on March 15, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    I understand your frustration, however, a number of years ago, I remember when public employees, perhaps the school teachers, did in fact sue regarding all of the skipped payments into the pension system. They attempted to compel the courts to order the contributions. I do not know the case, and I teach in a private institution. The court basically stated that the funding issue was none of the business of the public employees. Great answer. My point is that the “publics” did in fact try to change this course of events through the “legal” system.
    I worry about the total loss of the rule of law in NJ, and the tragedy that happened to the union workers in the Central States pensions, which authorization was cleverly “tucked away” in Obama’s budget. The voting took place in secret. I fear that our democracy is now lost for the young people. If I were they, I would leave this country.
    I funded my own pension in private industry, but most of the people in government relied upon broken promises, and did not believe that they were being lied to by their representatives. Many are well intended, others are not. I agree. I have been deeply criticized, especially by my wife, for trying to find the good in people. Luckily, she does not read this cite, otherwise, I would be in big trouble.
    I teach some students in mathematics whose parents are deeply concerned for their children’s future.


    • Eric – you have some legitimate family concerns, but crocodile tears are not sufficient to offset the fact that NJ pensions across the board (worst for LEO and Firewhiners) are and have been for decades way way too generous for the amount of time and effort put in by the drones to “earn” them. If the State has underfunded them it is because the demands for funding never should have gotten as high as they did. The private sector retires at 65 or 66 in most cases, not 52 or 55. Change that and maybe, just maybe, you get some empathy from overburdened taxpayers listening to sob stories.


      • Posted by Tough Love on March 15, 2016 at 11:39 pm


        I’m glad to see that you put “earn” in quotation marks.

        It perturbs me when I see Public Sector workers use that word so freely.

        Pasting below my feeling on this via an earlier response to someone else…..


        I don’t doubt that your “worked according to the rules” and going further, that you (individually) had nothing to with choosing/granting the formulas for your pension and the generosity of your benefits.

        However please don’t call them “earned”, as it implies that your promised pension & benefits were necessary, (to attract and retain a qualified workforce), justified, fair (to Taxpayers who pay for 80%-90% of the total costs), or affordable. They never were and aren’t today, simply having been BOUGHT By the Public Sector unions from self-interested, taxpayer-betraying Elected Officials with Public Sector Union campaign contributions and election support.


      • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 16, 2016 at 1:28 am

        “Americans’ average self-reported age of retirement has slowly moved upward. Gallup conducted several polls in the early 1990s and found that the average retirement age was 57 in both 1991 and 1993. From 2002 through 2012, the average hovered around 60. Over the past two years, the average age at which Americans report retiring has increased to 62.”


        From 2002 through 2012, the average age for public employee retirement has also been around 60. Except safety workers, many of whom have mandatory retirement at 55.


    • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 16, 2016 at 1:52 am

      “I teach some students in mathematics whose parents are deeply concerned for their children’s future.”

      Not everyone is so pessimistic.


      For all we know, our grandchildren may look back at us with pity.


  9. Posted by Eric on March 15, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    PS Drone:
    I am paying the taxes as well, and I am in the private sector as are you. My focus is upon those who make modest pensions, and have trusted their leaders. Perhaps you view me as being naive.


    • Posted by Tough Love on March 15, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      Just wondering, do you have any family members who are now receiving or anticipate receiving a Public Sector pension at some future date?


  10. Posted by Eric on March 16, 2016 at 8:58 am

    A distant relative by marriage, who is an older woman, who cannot return to work as a seamstress. I also have another distant relative who is a new school teacher. Again, and I will leave it at this, many people are almost simple, and trusted their leadership to their detriment. That is what bothers me.
    Others, on the other hand, “gamed” the system, and my experiences with them have been most unfavorable. I have been lied to by them, and most are downright petty.
    They should not, however, overshadow the dedicated worker who does in fact care about a quality job. I place them into two distinct categories.


    • Eric – You mentioned that your distant relative was suffering because of increasing health insurance premiums. Is she not on Medicare and, if not, why not? The premiums by comparison to private insurance are for most people manageable (probably why it is gong broke just like SS). As far as pension fairness is concerned, I am not overly frustrated by drones who receive modest pensions. However, I am adamant that the age to receive benefits has to be increased and a maximum imposed on the level of benefits. The AC Fire Chief “retired” (under duress) late last year after a whole 35 years of service. His pension: $221,000 per year for the rest of his life (plus I am sure a generous surviving spouse continuation). This is not just outrageous and totally unwarranted, to me it represents grand larceny perpetrated on the inept and voiceless public by crooked unions and politicians.


      • Posted by Tough Love on March 16, 2016 at 10:45 pm

        While I VERY strongly support Pension reductions in NJ, believing that ALL of NJ’s Public Sector pensions (at ALL income levels) are grossly excessive (when compared to what a comparable Private Sector worker would typically get in employer-sponsored retirement benefits if retiring at the SAME age, with the SAME pay, and the SAME years of service), your stated pension of $221K annually for a recent AC Firefighter seemed so extreme that I looked into it ……….

        It turns out that you are incorrect. Dennis Brooks’ PENSIONABLE ANNUAL SALARY is listed as $220,699.92, with a monthly payment of $12,874.16, giving an annual pension of $154,489.92. With 36 years of service, that makes sense brecause the Maximum Safety pension is 70% of pay and $154,489.92 is 70% of $220,699.92.

        Accuracy is important, as wrong #s gives fodder to those opposing the VERY MUCH needed pension reform and makes those who support reform look foolish.

        That being said, I believe his wages of $220,699.92 were excessive and his pensions is off-the-wall excessive …… and hopefully will be materially reduced once the Plan to which he belong runs out of assets.


        • If the number I quoted for his pension was incorrect, I must blame the AC Press for the error. Normal for that paper. But you are correct; both his salary and his pension were/are ridiculous. Eight fire houses for a city with 35,000 residents.


  11. Posted by Anonymous on March 19, 2016 at 10:56 am

    I retired 2011 !!! Sounds like the arguments r from 2010 down retires were entitled to cola and receiving the benefit!!! The state legislature then fucked up leaving out in the definition that colas were not considered in the benefit retirement package from 2011 on !!! New legislation will be needed if we loose the cola !!!


  12. Posted by Jack Farrington on March 21, 2016 at 9:27 am

    The police and firefighters should still be receiving the c o l a ! They retired with that expectation so their income for their future lives would be there ! Some police and firefighters when they retired that was how they were able to adjust their budgets ! We pay taxes in this State and in the cities and where ever we go ! We don’t have and we don’t want a free ride. We. Paid the highest into our plan and are only looking to receive our Benfits! To one comment I read that person said don’t said you earned it the pension ! Well I worked over forty years in the fire service ! That was in Jersey City fighting fires and what ever else it took to keep the citizens of that city and state at times safe . Don’t tell me my pension was not earned ! You walk in my shoes and than you can walk the walk ! You have no idea what it takes to be a firefighter or police officer in this state or any state for that matter ! Who you going to call when you or your family is in trouble ! And I hope you never have to but don’t ever say we have not earned our pensions


    • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm


      You “earned” a what should have been a reasonable pension, one fair to BOTH you and to NJ’s Taxpayers.

      To the extent that your pension is greater than what was fair to NJ’s Taxpayers* (and it IS by 3+ TIMES… at least), you did not “earn” it. It was STOLEN from the taxpayers by the collusion between your Unions and NJ’s self-interested, contribution-soliciting, vote-selling, taxpayer-betraying elected officials.

      And yes, you paid “the highest into your plans”, but it really wasn’t very much when compared to your VERY RICH promised pension, it being VERY unlikely that ALL of your own contributions, accumulated with interest to the date of your retirement would be sufficient at retirement to buy more than 10%-20% of that VERY VERY rich pension.

      Granted yes, earned…perhaps 1/3 of it.

      P.S. This is not a personal attack on you or a commentary on your ability, contribution, or work ethic, only my opinion as to the grossly excessive richness of your promised pension.

      * Fair to NJ’s Taxpayers would be a pension with a value very close to that of a Private Sector workers in a job with comparable risks and with reasonably comparable requirements as to education, experience, knowledge, and skills ,….. and NOT a pension that is 3, 4, even 5 times greater in value at retirement, as are NJ’s Public Sector safety pensions.


  13. Posted by Anonymous on March 21, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I for one, actually one of many, worked for the Fire Department with the understanding that i would retire with a pension that would include a cost of living increase. I am a single parent and retired to take care for my two children who are still in high school and college bound, I am still paying a mortgage which is not disappearing any time soon. When I retired I took into consideration that I would be receiving a cost of living increase every year. I took this for granted due to the fact that it is clearly stated in my pension. I have three children one in college and two on their way. I have recently turned 66 and filled for SS for all of the jobs I worked other then the Fire Service much to my surprise the money that I thought I would be receiving was cut by almost 75% due to the fact that I have a government pension. It is a shame to think that all of these men that risked their lives protecting the citizens of any city should be penalized. The travesty does not end here but has also been put on Fire Fighters and Police still on the job who will be required to pay for medical coverage when they retire. This was not what they signed up for, many of these man had over 15 years in police and fire service when this was put on them. I for one would like to known how in the world any one could consider this fare and just. To turn someones life up side down after 15, 10 or even five years of dedication. Let alone those of us that have put in our 25 plus years only to be blind sided, with the this COLA


    • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      What percentage of all employer-sponsored Private Sector pensions are annually COLA-increased ………….. perhaps 1%?


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