Archive for the ‘New Jersesy Pension’ Category

Can Benchmark But Not Audit

benchmark: a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed.

audit: an official inspection of an individual’s or organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body.

At the State Investment Council bimonthly meeting it was reported:

New Jersey’s pension-fund investments posted an annual return of 4.16 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, following years of mostly sustained double-digit returns, state officials said Wednesday.

Nevertheless, according to Treasury Department data, the unaudited investment returns beat the state’s benchmark, a composite of various indexes, which yielded 2.93 percent.

Which brings up the obvious (at least to me) questions:

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Latest New Jersey Governor Cashing In

Currently we have

  • Brendan Byrne (January 15, 1974 to January 19, 1982) – $35,827
  • Thomas Kean (January 19, 1982 to January 16, 1990 – $22,846
  • James Florio (January 16, 1990 to January 18, 1994) – $54,249
  • Christine Todd Whitman (January 18, 1994 to January 31, 2001) – $19,320
  • Donald DiFrancesco (January 31, 2001 to January 8, 2002) – $65,421

And beginning this month we have:

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NJ COLA Case Update

The Scheduling Order in Berg v. Christie came out today with the New Jersey Supreme Court setting December 14, 2015 as the date when all briefs are to be filed meaning that we could see oral arguments around February and a decision by May, 2016.

Though something Chris Christie said on Meet the Press last Sunday could mean that even if Cost-of-Living-Adjustments have to return we may be in a Bleak-House scenario where the money for them will all be gone.

We have most of this spiel but the part about being able to pay its bills is new.

Those bills consist of some $10 billion in annual payouts to retirees and, as many of my cheerily benighted public sector friends keep telling me, no payment has ever been skipped (reduced by COLA removal yes, but never skipped).  So why is Chris Christie bragging about still being able to keep making those payments?  Isn’t there $79 billion in the fund with $5 billion in contributions coming in annually?  Are we that close to pay-go?
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Laughmaker Christie

At the end of his Meet the Press interview this morning Chris Christie made a bold guarantee:

He might not have intended it but he already backed up that boast:

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Bringing NJ Pension Payment Case to SCOTUS

According to published reports it is now $4 billion that New Jersey would need to come up with:

6/30/14: .9 billion (1.6 due – .7 deposited)
6/30/15: 1.3 billion (2.2 due – .7 deposited + .2 bonus)
6/30/16: $1.8 billion (3.1 due – 1.3 budgeted)

were the Supreme Court of the United States to force the state to honor contracts.

The odds are long that the Court will even hear the case but the petition makes for some interesting reading:

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Bar Graphs That Deceive

The three-blade razor— designed for people who’ll believe anything (SNL commercial parody, 1975)

In a desperate attempt to have the findings of his commission stay on the radar Thomas J. Healey had an op-ed in the Star-Ledger last week that included this bar graph:

healey chart

with this explanation:

The commission does not propose reducing current funding levels, but spending the money more wisely than it has been spent to date providing the costliest public employee health benefits in the nation. Employees and retirees will get a bigger “bang for the buck” by using funds currently wasted by excesses in the health benefits system to instead bolster retirement funding…..The proposed reforms would save the retirement system by controlling health benefit costs – moving from unaffordable “platinum” plans to high-quality “gold” level plans that are more fairly in line with the private sector – without affecting quality of care. It is a win-win for everyone.

In a rebuttal letter to the editor this week Brian Wahler, mayor of Piscataway and president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. and Donald Webster Jr, president of the New Jersey School Boards Association, made the point:

We are concerned that the proposed savings resulting from the commission’s health-care proposals are unlikely to offset the shift of the unfunded liabilities to the local level. ….We have not seen the data behind the commission’s assertion that reforms to the health benefits would “more than offset” this transfer of liability.

Nobody will ever see that data because it does not exist.
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Politics of Pension Reform

The Manhattan Institute released a report today on reforms in public pensions since the Great Recession which, according to njspotlight,  cited New Jersey as an example where there has been meaningful pension reform.  It’s not.

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