I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Fact "Toolkit"

We'll be talking about this "toolkit" for the rest of the summer and into the fall. So I'm putting together a "toolkit" of my own: a toolkit of facts.

From now on, when I cite a fact I use a lot, I'll most likely just point to this post.


NJ ranks 31st in total state and local taxes collected from our own revenues as a percentage of personal income.

Although The Tax Foundation says we are the #1 taxed state (the usual source for Chrsitie's claim), their ranking is based on projections and taxation from other governments; they have also have a history of making large revisions to their reports in the past.

Massachusetts's 2.5% tax cap has made towns and schools much more reliant on state aid, and has not contained increases in health care, special education, or energy costs.

According to the 2010 "Tax Expenditure Report," NJ gives away billions in tax breaks - including a $4 billion break on taxation of corporate dividends.

The bottom 95% of taxpayers in NJ pay more of a percentage of their income in state and local taxes combined than the top 5%.

The taxpayer earning the average salary ($54K) in NJ pays around 8.6% in total state and local taxes. The top 1% - who average an income of $2.2 million - pay 7.4% (2007 numbers).

Christie's Actions:

Christie raised taxes on seniors and the disabled by $635 million by eliminating their rebates.

The non-partisan OLS says Christie's elimination of the "millionaires tax"cost the state around $600 million.

Christie's first "Tax Expenditure Report" - which is supposed to examine the tax breaks given to special interests by the state - did not meet all its legal requirements to explain those breaks.

During the campaign, Christie said to teachers: "I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor.and "I will not end collective bargaining and will safeguard protections for ALL public employees, including teachers."

In the spring of 2010, the Christie administration told many districts to expect a 10-15% cut in state aid; the administration then proceeded to cut between 90% and 100% of that aid.

School budget elections are strongly correlated to unemployment, suggesting that Christie's call to defeat school budgets was not the major factor in the 2010 school election outcome.

Teacher Pay and Benefits:

Over the last 20 years, teacher pay has grown more slowly than the pay of the average worker in NJ (teacher pay rose 150%; the average pay rose 162%).

Teacher salaries have actually declined with respect to non-teacher wages over time in NJ, even when comparing wages for the same number of hours and weeks worked, and at same degree level and age.

Teachers work 5/6 of the weeks similarly credentialed and educated workers do, yet make only 2/3 of the pay.

The "benefit gap" between teachers and non-teachers is approximately 5% - not enough to make up for the difference in pay.

Teachers in southern NY counties make more than teachers in the northern NJ counties directly adjacent to them.

Elementary and Secondary Public School Certified Staffing Salaries have DECLINED as a percentage of Total State and Local Expenditures from 1997 (13%) to 2007 (11%).

A NJ public employee with a bachelor's degree makes an average yearly salary of $56,641; in the private sector in NJ, that average is $89,041. The gap is wider for workers with a masters: $107,328 for the private worker vs $69,171 for the public worker.

School Administration Costs:

The amount of money spent in the NJ classroom has been consistent over time, Abbott districts' spending on administration is in-line with other districts, and administrators' salaries are a small part of total spending.

Superintendents in NY and private school headmasters make appreciably more than NJ superintendents, and administrator salaries have not grown more than other wages in the region.


Over the last 15 years, teachers have contributed 4.5 times as much to the pension system than the state has. The state's only contributions during that time were during the Corzine administration.

Each $1.00 paid out in pension benefits supported $1.38 in total economic activity in New Jersey (2007).

In 2009, the average pension benefit in NJ was $2219 a month, or $26,627 a year.

That's all for now - updates to come.

UPDATED 7/20/10: Reformatted, edited, added NJPP info on private vs public salaries.

UPDATED 8/11/10: Added following facts:

Wages and salaries of state and local employees are 28% of total state spending; employee retirement adds another 6%.

Total state and local government spending is $2.8 trillion per year.

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