There was a conference yesterday covering “the year’s developments in the public employment sector” with “updates on collective negotiations, pensions, health benefits and more” at which it was reported that Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) admitted:
“(New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney) may be an honorable man and intend to do that, but let me tell you, when you get the Legislature collectively together, occasionally we’re spineless,” he told the crowd. “If you’re going to try to get those reforms done after you’ve done the constitutional amendment guaranteeing the payments, I know several unions … will declare victory and will pound members of the Legislature into not coming back to the table to demand reforms. It simply will not happen unless you do the two things together.”
This stratagem was tried in 2011 when, among other things, cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) were eliminated in exchange for contractually obligating the state to make their predefined contribution payments. Two things have changed since then complicating another go at this tradeoff:
- COLAs might come back any day now, and
- If a contractual obligation can be ignored then why not a constitutional one (especially when you get to define that obligation)?
And two things have remained the same:
- An overreliance on believing the actuaries as to the scope of the problem (closing a $40 billion deficit might be possible but $250 billion?); and
- that spineless legislature.