NJ COLA Orals (9) – Firemen Exempt from COLA Termination?

What New Jersey is claiming in the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) case is that COLAs are not part of the ‘benefits program’. However the 2011 law defines an item specifically exempt from being a non-forfeitable right and that item is not the COLA. After trying to blame the IRS for this language:

5. a. For purposes of this section, a “non-forfeitable right to receive benefits” means that the benefits program, for any employee for whom the right has attached, cannot be reduced. The provisions of this section shall not apply to post-retirement medical benefits which are provided pursuant to law.

the state veered off into the twilight zone:

.

.
It takes repeated viewing to understand where this is going and you might get to a different place but here is where I am:

The legislature that enacted the non-forfeitable right did not recognize COLAs as being nonforfeitable because in 1969 that legislature amended the Pension Adjustment Act (43:3b-8) and it said that:

should there be a blanket increase in pensions then COLAs shall terminate thereafter.

Then in December, 1987 (?) six months after the legislature put in the non-forfeitable right statute the legislature enacted Chapter 281 (8.5 of some Pension Act) which exempted firemen from that COLA termination provision and allowed the state to argue:

How could the legislature that enacted the non-forfeitable right think that it had created a contractual right to COLAs and then six months later say: “Oh wait, we need to exempt firemen from the termination clause.” If the firemen had a nonforfeitable right then there would have been no need to do that.

Maybe someone out there can speak to the accuracy of the law the state cites but, bottom line, did the state just admit that firemen DO have a non-forfeitable right to COLAs?

 

 

 

54 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Are they arguing legalities or moralities? Does the 1997 or 2011 legislation grant specific COLA privelges to P&FRS? Or is it because their pensions are; 1) funded at the local level by State mandate, 2) their contribution rate is higher, 3) they don’t pay into or receive SS benefits,and 4) their pension benefit is significantly higher with no surviving spouse reduction?

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Quoting …… “4) their pension benefit is significantly higher with no surviving spouse reduction?”

      Yup, I guess the grossly excessive pension itself, is STILL not enough.

      We’re NOT talking about a service-related death, but a death after retiring. Do THEIR spouses need the bigger pension MORE than any OTHER worker, or is this simply more of our Elected Official’s pandering to the Safety Unions while betraying their obligation to the Taxpayers?

      Adding a 100% survivorship benefit (without a corresponding DECREASE in the annuity payout) INCREASES a pension’s “value” by about 15%.

      Simply ANOTHER Private Sector Taxpayer ripoff.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 7:52 pm

        TL you you are a moron. In order to have one spouse continue to receive pension benefits what is pension will be reduced at least 30% did you know that

        Reply

        • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 8:08 pm

          Quoting from the 1-st comment above …..

          “4) their pension benefit is significantly higher with no surviving spouse reduction?”

          Did you see the words ….”with no surviving spouse reduction” ?

          Reply

          • Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 8:49 pm

            Just to clarify, IF the surviving spouse remarries the benefit terminates. I guess that’s good news for the dining singles!

          • Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 8:53 pm

            Ok spell check is “going rogue”, s/b swing singles how dining got there.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 20, 2016 at 9:30 pm

            “For PFRS members who retired January 1, 1968 and
            after, upon your death your surviving spouse/partner
            is eligible to receive a pension benefit equal to 50%
            of your Final Compensation,…..”

            State of New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 10:21 pm

            SMD’s quote appears to be accurate, although the FULL provision is as follows:

            “For PFRS members who retired January 1, 1968 and
            after, upon your death your surviving spouse/partner
            is eligible to receive a pension benefit equal to 50%
            of your Final Compensation, plus 15% of your Final
            Compensation for one eligible child or 25% of your
            Final Compensation for two or more eligible children.”

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 20, 2016 at 10:34 pm

            ’Child’ — Your unmarried child:
            • Under the age of 18; or
            • 18 years of age or older and enrolled in high
            school;
            _______________________
            Not unreasonable, for someone with no Social Security eligibility.

            It’s complicated.
            LOLs!!!!

            Tough love works his ……”math”?……. based on a statement in an “Anonymous” post. No time or interest in verifying the statement, but plenty of time to post a typical vitriolic post with excessive caps lock and superfluous adjectives.

            Hey, why not? No matter whether the information is accurate, as long as it fits with Tough Love’s preconceived biases, it’s fair game. But if Moderation has the audacity to look up actual data, he is misleading and deceiving?

            Whassup with that, Love?

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 10:39 pm

            Wow, you seem particularly peeved today….. get shocked changing a light bulb ?

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 20, 2016 at 10:54 pm

            Moderation is copacetic.

            Nothing unusual.

            Typical TL: Assume the worst. Do the “math” based on flawed “assumptions”. Rant. Repeat.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 11:04 pm

            SMD …..Deceive, distract, distort, mislead, omit (material facts) ….. and does his best to “smooth”-away the accurate commentary of those who rightfully advocate for pension reform (“move along now”, nothing to see here Taxpayers, we’re not ripping you off TOO MUCH).

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 2:32 am

            Funny, we were discussing rants …..based on math …..based on unverified assumptions.

            Somehow we were sidetracked to random articles about the affordability of pensions. How did we get here from there?

            Good night.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 3:25 am

            No SMD, not one bit of math was used in any comment above……… say why would you say that ? Distracting again?

            Actually, I was SIMPLY giving the readers the FULL paragraph of PFRS Survivor pension benefits rather than just a portion (omitting a potentially SIGNIFICANT part of those survivor benefits), as you did.

            Oh, and my bad for not defining “child” to your satisfaction.
            ———————-

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 3:46 am

            “Adding a 100% survivorship benefit (without a corresponding DECREASE in the annuity payout) INCREASES a pension’s “value” by about 15%.
            Simply ANOTHER Private Sector Taxpayer ripoff.”

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 3:55 am

            And you didn’t mention surviving parents, if they are dependent. You can never get every detail.

            You can just divert attention from the fact that you mathed up on unverified information. As usual. It’s your modus operandi. Exaggerate the facts. Math it up. Rant. Change the subject. Repeat.

            It is complicated.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 11:30 am

            SMD,

            You’re getting more and more “desperate” (a simple sentence becomes “mathing it up”) in your quest to distract (with anything, no matter how irrelevant) from the real issue (and the focus of Mr. Bury’s Blog) …. MATERIAL Public Sector pension reform.

            COLAs SHMOLAS ….. the BASIC pensions are (at EVERY income level) 3 times (5 times for safety) greater in “value at retirement” and hence “cost” than those of COMPARABLY situated Private Sector workers.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm

            1) “INCREASES a pension’s “value” by about 15%.” is math.

            2) You accepted the word of an anonymous blogger with no attempt to verify it.

            3) You embellished that unverified claim. Anon said there was “no surviving spouse reduction”. You “assumed” the “100% survivorship benefit” ….(and mathed it up.) There is a difference. CA state employees have a 25% survivor continuance with no reduction in base pension. The retiree then has the option to increase the survivors pension by taking a reduced pension.

            4) “Simply ANOTHER Private Sector Taxpayer ripoff.” Simply another rant based on exaggerated claims.

            5) It’s not like this is an isolated incident. Each pension system has it’s own unique provisions which can have a big difference in the “generosity” of total compensation. But to you they are universally excessive. Egregious, even. Did you ever bother to look up the total compensation for Fresno city workers? Or did you just “assume” they were overcompensated?

            Mr. Fellner …may… have had a valid point. At the time, I stressed safety because their pensions were similar to most others in California. Misc. workers are another story: Their retirement formula is one of the lowest in the state. They are not covered by Social Security. They have no employer paid retirement health insurance. To determine if they are, on average, “overpaid”, one would need to compare wages to similar workers in that area. Or, one could use the Tough Love method and “assume” the worst.

            It’s copacetic. Moderation has a preconceived opinion, also. In Fresno, probably, the lower skilled, less educated city workers earn more than they would in the private sector. The professionals probably earn much less.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 1:36 pm

            Quoting SMD …. “2) You accepted the word of an anonymous blogger with no attempt to verify it. ”

            Yes, unfortunately I thought that commentator was accurately describing the PFRS survivorship pension..

            By the way, the PRFS survivorship pension benefit is STILL excessive because there appears to be no reduction in the otherwise calculated officer’s pensions with the addition of that 50% spousal (+ misc. child/parent) survivorship benefit.

            If those were added to a Private Sector worker’s chosen payout option, their pension would be reduced by about 10%

            And YUP I did it AGAIN …. “mathed it up”.

            Go for it ….. light bulb changer ……….. another opportunity for you to distract the readers from the real issue (and the focus of Mr. Bury’s Blog) …. MATERIAL Public Sector pension reform.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm

            “Yes, unfortunately I thought that commentator was accurately describing the PFRS survivorship pension..”

            Unfortunately, it ain’t the first time, Love. You are a veritable cornucopia of misinformation. Never bothering to check the facts.

            YUP, still GIGO.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm

            No SMD, It’s just that 90% of what I say, and 99% of my “math” is above your grade level ….. as a retired CA Public Sector light bulb changer.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 3:26 pm

            Sho-nuff!!!

            Because there ain’t no difference between “50% survivor continuance” and “100% survivor continuance”.

            There’s no difference between “NONE of New Jersey private sector road construction workers get DB pensions” and “ALL of New Jersey private sector road construction workers get DB pensions”.

            You frequently get public sector benefits wrong. You don’t know nearly as much about private sector compensation as you claim, and somehow you can math up your opinion of a comparison.

            Difference: When the light bulb changer reads that public sector workers retire 10 to 15 years earlier than private sector workers, he double checks with BLS and census figures and Gallup polls. When TL sees that figure, he says “YUP!!! ANOTHER Private Sector Taxpayer ripoff.”

            There’s really no need to feel inferior just because you don’t know how to change a light bulb, but you really should work on verifying your sources.

            Face it; you have a lousy record of accuracy.

            If your “opinion” of the overcompensated public worker is calculated on inaccurate data, your opinion is worthless.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 3:27 pm

            Worse than worthless.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm

            Quoting SMD ….

            “Because there ain’t no difference between “50% survivor continuance” and “100% survivor continuance”.”

            And where did THAT come from?

            Didi I say THAT or did I say …

            “…the PRFS survivorship pension benefit is STILL excessive because there appears to be no reduction in the otherwise calculated officer’s pensions with the addition of that 50% spousal (+ misc. child/parent) survivorship benefit. If those were added to a Private Sector worker’s chosen payout option, their pension would be reduced by about 10%”

            An accurate statement … even though apparently beyond your willingness (or ability) to understand it.
            ————————-

            And given the HUGE and complicated scope of NJ’s pensions & benefits granted it’s Public Sector workers …. oh how indeed horrible it is that I occasionally “get something wrong” ?

            Does that diminish the need for very material reductions in the undeniably grossly excessive pension & benefit promises that are in place today ?

            Perhaps you were good at your life’s carer choice ….. changing light bubs …. but although you unjust benefited from it (via your unjust pension & benefits), you know squat about the design, cost, or funding of Public Sector pensions

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 4:17 pm

            “I occasionally “get something wrong” ?

            “occasionally ” ?

            Half of it you make up. The other half you exaggerate.

            “GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is a concept common to computer science and mathematics: the quality of output is determined by the quality of the input. So, for example, if a mathematical equation is improperly stated, the answer is unlikely to be correct.”

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 4:24 pm

            SMD,

            You’re correct. “occasionally” was a poor choice of words.

            RARELY would have been MUCH more accurate.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm

            Do you know the meaning of the word “rarely”?

            Today, for instance, in the matter of survivor continuance; would you say you were 100% wrong, or just 50% wrong?

            You can’t just make this stuff up, you know. And if you hear it from someone else, you should verify. ( Unless it fits your preconceived bias, then, by all means, post as if it were fact. Embellish a little for good measure. Then math it up.)

            Tough Love: Often in error, never in doubt.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 8:39 pm

            Quoting SMD ….. “You can’t just make this stuff up”

            Yup …. but YOU sure can and do..

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 9:15 pm

            “Noway”

            LOL!!!

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 9:24 pm

            Yup I spelled Norway incorrectly (correcting it right after posting).

            But can you correct this ?

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 21, 2016 at 11:05 pm

            Noway !!!

            You am what you am, Love.

            I find your puerile attitude interesting, but sadly not surprising. If I had also told you I’m 6’6″ and redheaded, you could revert totally to fifth grade.

            We’re not laughing with you. We’re laughing at you.

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 22, 2016 at 12:09 am

            SMD,

            The only ones who support you are equally greedy Public Sector workers/retirees, and the parasitic Elected Officials whose political lives depend your Union’s money.

            Reality and the “math” (that you neither like nor understand) will bring an end to your grossly excessive, unnecessary, unjust, unfair, and unaffordable pensions & benefits, and hopefully to your Unions as well.

            Our Gov’t leaders long ago knew that there was no place for Gov’t Unions. A great deal of damage has been done because those that followed them were not as wise and let their guard down.

          • Posted by Smooth Moderation Difficult on March 22, 2016 at 7:12 am

            Worthless rhetoric. I “understand the math” in New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, etc. Reality may well “bring an end” to some of the pensions and benefits* because those states have not even remotely kept up with even the minimum ARC.

            “DON’T PAY THE BILLS, THE DEBT GETS LARGER”

            ” ‘grossly excessive, unnecessary, unjust, unfair, and unaffordable’ pensions & benefits,” is meaningless fanatical raving. You have no real credibility because you have so often exaggerated the facts. The boy who cried “wolf”.

            And your “parasitic Elected Officials” get ten times as much money and support from business interests than they do from unions.
            _______________________________
            *An “end” in the sense that there will be …some… compromise and reduction in pensions/benefits, but nowhere near the scale you suggest. Alas, you will never be satisfied.

            How “difficult” is that?

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 22, 2016 at 11:45 am

            SMD,

            And if we DIDN’T promise grossly excessive pensions that are:

            (a) unnecessary to attract and retain a qualified workforce
            (b) unjust, unfair (to Taxpayers), and unaffordable
            (c) 3 times (5 times for Safety workers) greater in value at retirement than the pensions of comparable/similarly situated Private Sector workers
            (d) BOUGHT from our Elected Officials with campaign contributions and election support

            THEN:

            (a) the “generosity” would certainty be no less than the pensions granted comparable/similarly situated Private Sector workers
            (b) the Plan costs would be FAR lower
            (c) there WOULD BE no “difficulty” (and there never WOULD HAVE BEEN) fully funding these FAR lower costs
            (d) other than actuarial gains and losses arising from the most recent year, there likely would be no unfunded liability

            Bottom line…….. “DON’T OVER-PROMISE and DEBTS NEVER MATERIALIZE”

  2. Posted by skip3house on March 20, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    About 1970, unpaid volunteer firemen at age 65 were allowed some small benefit for length of service, but I cannot find any one old enough to recall this…..

    Reply

  3. Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    I know off topic but anyway they can change the verbiage from “oral” to “anal” arguments?

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      John,
      We all know what will happen here. Even though anyone with half a brain would admit that the cola is included in the Benifits program, the vote will go 4-3 against restoring cola. The Republicans (including the independent) will all vote against the cola reinstatement because that is what they will be told to do. The ideological, party line bullshit extends to the judiciary, and the average person has no shot of anything remotely being fair if the powers that be decide what the verdict should be. An appeal to the scotus would not even be heard more than likely. Agree with that statement?

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on March 20, 2016 at 9:05 pm

        To put it into legalese, objection your honor, asked and answered, objection overruled – appeal overturned, case closed. Next Senate and Governor elections please.

        Reply

      • That’s what I voted for in the poll, though it is a clear minority opinion.
        Still time to vote:


        Reply

        • Posted by Anonymous on March 21, 2016 at 3:02 am

          They won’t deny Trump. They can’t disenfranchise voters in he gets the delegates. He will lose to Clinton. You will see the GOP run anti trump ads in the fall to distance themselves from him. Senators will play the checks and balances card to say “ok, we can deal with Clinton, but elect us so she has no control of congress” if they had any plans to back trump they would have done so already. He will lose a general election.
          Speaking of checked and balances—as I stated earlier the njsc is certainly not performing the function fairly. They are supposed to interpret the cola law and you will.have some that will vote along party lines, just like Christie’s chumps in the state GOP. (And some dems, although that has passed) so TL I do think the courts are rigged in cases like this. Regardless of your opinion on that matter, you really can’t say that a cola is not part of the Benifits program. I know you may think it is unfair, but how can anyone interpret that law as anything but crystal clear concerning cola. I think the state is put forth a terrible argument to date, but it will not matter because the judges will do what they are told.

          Reply

          • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 3:34 am

            Yes I think COLAs are unfair, along with 50% to 75% of the basic underlying pensions (factoring in BOTH the Rich “formulas” AND the generous “provisions”, such as very young full/unreduced retirement ages), and virtually all retiree healthcare benefits …. employer-sponsored retirement benefits which VERY few in the Private Sector get any longer.

            Yup, THAT’s the extent of reduction necessary to bring down the current grossly excessive Public Sector pension & benefit promises ALL THE WAY down to the level commonly granted Private Sector workers ……. and Public Sector workers are NOT “special” and deserving of MORE …on the Taxpayers;’ dime.

        • Posted by Anonymous on March 21, 2016 at 3:02 am

          I hope we are wrong and the majority of voters on this site are right.

          Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 10:32 pm

        Quoting Anon …… “The ideological, party line bullshit extends to the judiciary, and the average person has no shot of anything remotely being fair …..”

        If the “average person” (which I’ll interpret to be Private Sector Taxpayers) had a ….”shot of anything remotely being fair” …… NJ”s grossly excessive Public Sector pensions & benefits would NEVER had been granted by our self-interested, contribution-soliciting, vote-selling Legislature.

        Reply

  4. Posted by Eric on March 20, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Anonymous:
    i agree with you. The court has become a political whorehouse. The law is irrelevant.
    Eric

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      NJ’s Union-BOUGHT Legislature is a FAR greater “political whorehouse” than NJ’s judiciary.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Eric on March 20, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    Tough Love:
    Both branches of the NJ government are bought. The third branch is MIA.
    Congress is bought. I do not support Trump, but the Republican establishment will not permit him to be President. The Republican establishment supports Hillary since she is already a bought and paid for criminal who will not interfere with business as usual.
    I honestly believe that Bernie Sanders is not bought so he has no future whatsoever.
    You can see why I encourage my students in the US to leave the country.
    Eric

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on March 20, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      Quoting ….. “I do not support Trump, but the Republican establishment will not permit him to be President. ”

      Should Trump get sufficient Delegate to win the nomination, I await the brawl that would ensue if they attempt to deny him….. will make for great summer entertainment.

      P.S. Where would your students go ? With they exception of perhaps Noway, the entire world is facing a financial and political nightmare.

      Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on March 21, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Hey Eric the real question is where do you encourage them to go to and why specifically?

      Reply

  6. Posted by Eric on March 21, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Tough Love:
    Singapore for those who are adventurous. Canada for those who are homesick.
    Eric

    Reply

  7. Posted by Eric on March 21, 2016 at 9:29 am

    John:
    Very briefly, going back to this case, it is not complicated. I read the briefs that were posted. I heard the oral argument. This is not rocket science.
    In the statute, benefits program is stated in the plural, as Ouslander said. As Justice Albin stated, a cost of living adjustment is a benefit. The benefits program shall not be reduced. Fine.
    What is not part of the statute is post-retirement medical benefits. It has been specifically excluded by the legislature which, as I have said, availed itself of the very statute it enacted. In other words, it knew how to use this statute.
    One of the numerous problems for the state is that its position is that “base pensions” are protected by the non-forfeitable rights statute. The statute does not mention the words base or pensions. Where, legally, does the state acquire its position that base pensions are protected while cost of living adjustments are not, when neither of these terms are mentioned or specified in the statute? I do not understand. This is basic statutory construction.
    Does Ms. Riley use a Ouija board? Please enlighten us! Why is it that no one on the court even asked Ms. Riley as to her method used for ascertaining this information?
    The state cannot legally argue “both ways”, which is why I believe that Ouslander, underscoring the insanity of the argument, stated okay, then it, meaning the statute, should be considered void for vagueness and have no meaning at all.
    The court cannot be comprised of only morons, so this is why I believe that the “fix is in” and NJ is now swirling around the very bottom of the drain.
    Leave the state!
    Eric

    Reply

  8. Posted by dentss dunnigan on March 21, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Is there ever any consederation to the states ability to pay .I understand the state has unlimited taxing power but at some point numbers do matter .As we have all know companies have and continue to move out ,as well as very high profile wealthy individuals have made no bones about it …they move out because of excessive taxes . At some point it must dawn on the powers that be that the ability to tax is at it’s breaking point .I was reading in the SL that some towns in south Jersey are begging the state to give them more state aid because they have no place to raise the revenue except property taxes …they have reached that limit people will be forced out .I know the state is not at that point yet but with these pensions numbers exponential growth to won’t be long .We know it was promised ,and proper payments were not made ,that past history that keeps people we need here away from the state ,because of past promises that in reality could not be kept …..I know people that had LT care policy’s that they paid into regiously .Now the company is going bankrupt because of the low interest rate policy we’re now in ,they can’t get a decent return to pay policyholders …they was promised too,and it got them nowhere ..we’re in a changing environment that must be considered as well

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on March 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      Eric,

      How many of NJ’s Public Sector workers/retirees do you think give a crap about NJ’s ability to pay, or the fairness (to taxpayers) of the grossly excessive (by every reasonable metric) pension/benefit promises granted them ?

      Reply

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