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Sweeney Town Hall Meeting On ‘Path To Progress’ Fiscal Reforms At Monmouth University


the staff of the Ridgewood blog

TRENTON NJ, Senate President Steve Sweeney will hold a town hall meeting from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 11, in Wilson Hall, Monmouth University, 400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, NJ to conduct a public discussion about the fiscal reforms in the “Path To Progress” report.

Hosted by Grey J. Dimenna, the President of Monmouth University, the forum will include the participation of Senator Vin GopalSenator Declan O’Scanlon and Peter Reinhart, from the Monmouth University Kislak Real Estate Institute and a member of the Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup.

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Senate President, Assembly Majority Leader focus on pension overhaul, benefits reform and property tax relief at Rowan event


the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, while Murphy Administration called on liberal activists, to push back against state Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s big plan to fix New Jersey’s long-term fiscal problems , Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald tonight warned that New Jersey won’t be able to make critical investments in education, transportation, higher education and social services unless it enacts major structural reforms to address the looming budget crisis fueled by runaway pension and benefit costs.

Continue reading Senate President, Assembly Majority Leader focus on pension overhaul, benefits reform and property tax relief at Rowan event
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N.J. Republican breathes new life into Christie’s pension overhaul

Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon


A Republican state lawmaker has introduced legislation to pay for billions of dollars in upcoming public pension bills by reducing state and local health care spending on government workers. Samantha Marcus, Read more

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Readers say with Pension Reform Immediate solutions for long term problems, are just not reasonable or possible.


All of the changes contained in the 2011 law that haven’t already taken effect will be fully implemented in just over 1 year. This law wasn’t designed to show a substantial immediate savings. It was designed to implement changes over a period of years and once ALL of those gradual changes were completed the impact of those changes going forward would have a positive effect on the states financial condition. Immediate solutions for long term problems, are just not reasonable or possible.

The full story on the Chapter 78, P.L. 2011 pension reforms… the problems are unfortunately still very much with us. Here are the facts: cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) were suspended for current and future retirees and beneficiaries from July 2011, but there’s been no inflation in NJ since 2008, so this is not an issue. The increases in employee contribution rates towards their own pensions are only gradual: from 5.5% to 6.5% plus an additional 1% phased-in over 7 years through 2019 for TPAF and PERS; from 3% to 12% for JRS phased-in over seven years; from 8.5% to 10% for PFRS members; and, from 7.5% to 9% for SPRS members. Given the “special” retirement option available only to PFRS members, who can retire after 20-25 years and earn more from their defined benefit pensions for life in retirement then they earned in compensation while serving, they should be contributing more than 10%. As for the increased health benefit contributions, employees subject to any collective negotiations agreement in effect on the effective date of the law in July 2011, i.e. CBAs, that had an expiration date on or after the expiration of the health care contribution provisions of the law, haven’t been subject to the new higher contribution rates yet. In Ridgewood, only Fire is now paying a higher contribution amount, while the PBA and the REA haven’t yet agreed to new CBAs that would trigger higher health benefit contribution rates… so Ridgewood taxpayers have yet to see much, if any benefit from the pension reforms of 2011.

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N.J. health care deal expiring


JUNE 21, 2015, 10:43 PM    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2015, 10:48 PM

Hundreds of thousands of public workers began paying more for their health care benefits after Governor Christie overhauled the system in 2011 — a massive shift that would save New Jersey taxpayers $3 billion over 10 years, administration officials said at the time.

But just four years in, instead of the expected savings, state and local taxpayers are staring at the prospect of footing more of the bill for those medical coverage plans.

The reason: Tucked inside the sprawling 2011 reform law is a sunset provision that says the higher payments required of public workers will expire in four years. After that, the provision says, all health care costs must again be negotiated at the bargaining table as union contracts come up for renewal.

For much of the workforce, that change kicks in at the end of this month.

So New Jersey’s powerful labor unions are gearing up for contract negotiations at all levels of government — from the state to counties, municipalities and school boards — with one unifying goal: to reduce health insurance costs as much as possible for their members.

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For Many American States, It’s Like the Recession Never Ended


by Mark Niquette

Six years after the recession ended, many U.S. states are hard pressed to balance budgets because of a sluggish recovery and their own policy decisions. The fiscal fragility raises questions about how they will weather the next economic downturn.

A majority of states are making cuts, tapping reserves or facing shortfalls despite an improving national economy and stock markets at record levels, according to Standard & Poors and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State revenue hasn’t rebounded to a prerecession peak adjusted for inflation, and other factors are putting pressure on budgets.

Alaska, Oklahoma and energy-producing states saw receipts fall with global oil prices. Kansas overestimated revenue after tax cuts, while New Jersey faces a shortfall thanks to unfunded pensions. Even some Republican governors have championed tax increases to avoid further diminishing services curtailed during the 18-month recession, the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

“The extent of the weakness is really impressive,” said Donald Boyd, who tracks state finances at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, New York. “There’s a lot of pressure on governors and legislators.”

Thirty-two states faced budget gaps in fiscal 2015 or 2016 or both, according to an April 27 report by Standard & Poors. The fiscal year ends June 30 in all but four states.

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While Democrats look to stamp out Free Speech , Christie and Teachers Union agree to Historic Pension Reforms



While Democrats look to stamp out Free Speech , Christie and Teachers Union agree to Historic Pension Reforms

Christie lays out $33.8B budget; wants to make public pensions more similar to those in private sector

FEBRUARY 24, 2015, 1:00 PM    LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2015, 10:42 PM

Pitching what he said could become a “national model,” Governor Christie used his budget speech Tuesday to speak almost exclusively about pension reform, returning to the issue that won him national acclaim and one that sets up fights with unions and Democrats that control the Legislature.

The governor’s reforms – a sweeping package of pension freezes, new union-controlled benefit plans and health care changes — would need approval from lawmakers and from voters who would be asked to rewrite the state constitution. And it is unclear how long the changes would take to enact, how much taxpayers would save and what it would ultimately mean for the more than 400,000 active public workers — including teachers, police, firefighters, and state and local employees — earning pensions and benefits.

Christie delivered his budget address before the full Legislature.
“I am here today to ask you to do what may be politically difficult, but what is morally the right thing to do,” Christie said. “This is the type of leadership our state requires.”

Christie’s team began the morning with a 15-second social-media video publicizing the address and touting his plan as having the backing of the New Jersey Education Association, the powerful union that spent millions against him and opposed initial pension changes he signed into law in 2011. By Tuesday afternoon, the union’s leaders blasted the announcement of a partnership, calling it “embellished” and “overstated,” and saying enacting such reforms would be a lengthy and complex process.


Republican Leaders praise Christie’s pension ‘roadmap’

TRENTON — Two of Trenton’s top Republican leaders applauded Gov. Chris Christie’s commitment to fixing an ailing pension and benefit system moments after the executive delivered his latest budget address during a joint legislative session on the Assembly floor here today. (Brush/PolitickerNJ)

Republican Leaders praise Christie budget address, pension ‘roadmap’ | New Jersey News, Politics, Opinion, and Analysis


Christie focuses budget address on pension system

It was a rousing welcome but an unusual budget speech. (Aron/NJTV)

Stile: Teachers union unlikely partner in Christie’s pension overhaul

Governor Christie sold it as one of the biggest political coups of recent New Jersey history — a plan to dramatically restructure New Jersey’s public-employee pension system with a new and very improbable partner, the New Jersey Education Association. (Stile/The Bergen Record)

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Eying a White House bid, New Jersey’s Chris Christie faces economic challenges at home

New Jersey Governor Christie gives news conference in Trenton

Eying a White House bid, New Jersey’s Chris Christie faces economic challenges at home

NEWARK, N.J. — As he casts his eye toward a potential presidential bid, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie must also take on some work at home. First up: a statewide address expected to touch on nagging economic issues that could complicate his political plans.

Observers expect Christie to use his fifth State of the State address on Tuesday to define his tenure as governor on his own terms, while not missing the chance to articulate his rationale for a potential run for president. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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Pension reform talk may heat up as Christie readies State of the State address


Pension reform talk may heat up as Christie readies State of the State address

TRENTON — When Gov. Chris Christie delivers his 2015 State of the State address Tuesday, lawmakers and public workers will no doubt be listening for remarks on pension reform.

On the eve of that speech, and months after a commission’s report on recommendations for the ailing pension system was expected to be released, legislators, union leaders and lobbyists say they are expecting to hear from the governor on one of the biggest issues facing Trenton. Christie’s office has not yet provided any details about his annual address to the state Legislature.

The governor made mention of the ailing public employee pension system nine times in his 2014 address, proposing to crack down on pension fraud and engage on pension reform.

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The Union-Driven Crisis That Could Be Coming to a City Near You


The Union-Driven Crisis That Could Be Coming to a City Near You

Stephen Moore / @StephenMoore / January 11, 2015

For “Outrageous Government Scam of 2014,” it’s hard to compete with the news of the supersized public employee pensions in California. If you haven’t already heard: In 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861.

Talk about a golden parachute. And the report on Golden State government pensions contains a list of hundreds of “public servants” who have hit the jackpot with annual pensions of a half million dollars a year. It’s like they’re playing the game “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” with taxpayer money.

By some estimates, the unfunded public-sector pension liabilities in California have eclipsed $750 billion, which means in a few years residents will be paying their already-highest-in-the-nation income and sales taxes not for roads, bridges, schools and public safety, but for retired employees living like Daddy Warbucks.

This same scandal – only on a slightly smaller scale – is happening in most states. The crisis dates back 20 to 30 years ago, when public employee unions negotiated fat pension deals with state and local politicians that were like ticking time bombs in municipal budgets. The politicians who bought union votes didn’t care much. They’d be long gone when these grenades detonated, and the fiscal carnage began.

Americans know instinctively that this is no way to run a city or state, and that the enormous pensions border on larceny from public treasuries. This will eventually cause rip roaring problems for state and local budgets. But now we have a story from middle America of what happens when the crisis hits a financial boiling point. Look no further than Scranton, Pa.

Scranton is a middle-class, blue-collar town of 76,000 with severe financial problems. The city recently raised its property taxes for 2014 by more than 50 percent, and those taxes are expected to rise by another 20 percent in 2015. The city had to also raise various fees, such as the charge for garbage collection, by two-thirds. It’s becoming a tax hell.

These taxpayer costs are skyrocketing because the city’s auditors calculate that the police and fire pension funds will be completely depleted in three to five years. The local Times-Tribune newspaper reported last week that “pensions increased by as much as 80 percent” after a court order in 2011 awarded millions of dollars of added pensions to firefighters and police officers.

This is a town that has already been struggling for years to pay its bills. The Times-Tribune reports: “The increased pensions come at a time when Scranton, in distressed status since 1992, is struggling to survive [and faces] a $20 million deficit.” City officials admit that to pay these lucrative pensions will mean less money for school children, public safety and infrastructure needs.

Finances are so tight in this town that, late last year, the city auditor put out an advisory memo to city agencies: “Only in the event of an extreme emergency can a purchase be made. … This is a serious matter and your cooperation is expected.”

So, now, homeowners are getting squeezed on basic city services as they pay ever escalating property taxes. What a deal. Don’t be surprised as more leave Scranton, further depleting the tax base. And who would want to move there now?

When the mayor requested that the unions help keep the city afloat by renegotiating these soaring pension costs, the answer from these militant “public service” union leaders was, Hell no.

One option is for Scranton to take the Detroit route and declare bankruptcy. This is also what several California cities – such San Bernardino and Stockton – have had to do.

The California Policy Center notes that this option has the virtue of “forcing the unions to renegotiate and take a haircut.” If that doesn’t happen, cities like Scranton, and many more working-class towns, will continue to raise taxes at a time when families are already walking a financial tight rope.

The Left loves to talk about “fairness” and “inequality,” but where the inequities really exist are in towns like Scranton. Middle-class private-sector workers pay higher and higher taxes to fund public-sector pensions that, as the Manhattan Institute has shown, are often twice as generous as what most workers will receive themselves. The money for supersized pensions isn’t going to come from millionaires and billionaires like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. It is coming right out of the paychecks of working-class America.

The crisis isn’t going away. Nationwide, public employee pensions are running $1 trillion to $5 trillion in the red, depending on the rate of return expected on stocks and bonds. This could be the next housing bubble to burst. Some states like Utah have smartly moved to head off this crisis by closing down open-ended pensions and putting public sector union members in 401(k) plans that won’t bankrupt the state or municipalities. The unions are fighting this reform everywhere.

If something isn’t done quickly, the crisis in Scranton will soon be coming to a town near you.

Originally appeared in the Orange County Register.