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

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fair is (un)Fair!

Mayor Bollwage of Elizabeth has got the answer to our property tax problems:
Have public employees pay 50 percent of their health-care costs — 1.5 percent is ridiculous — and switch the pension contributions. Right now, we pay 18.5 percent (of their salaries into the fund), and employees pay 8.5 percent. Flop that and it would solve the cap problems.
Yes, it's perfectly reasonable to ask a public employee to pay 50% of their health care costs; I'm sure somewhere Governor Christie can find someone to write him an email from the private sector about what a sweet ride that would be - maybe an undocumented migrant farm worker or a cashier at a burger joint. Because, as we all know, a public worker can never, ever have decent affordable health care if there are people in the private sector who don't.

And I'm sure most college-educated professionals would be thrilled if their employers told them they had to pay half of their health insurance premiums. Half is, what, about $7K to $8K a year for family coverage? More than 10% of the average teacher's salary.

Add that to the additional 10% the mayor wants employees to pay into their pensions, and you're cutting public employee salaries by 20% or more right off the top. And since the mayor's plan calls for paying for half of your health care (as opposed to a percentage of your salary), this can be regressively imposed on the workers making less. I'm sure His Honor and the Governor would agree this is a "great deal."

So, to all you bright, hard-working young people out there: consider a career in public service in beautiful Elizabeth! With it's 55% of students for whom Spanish is the language spoken at home and it's at least twice the violent crime rate vs the rest of the state, the ease of your job will handily offset your low pay!

(By the way: the mayor is sloppy with the numbers here. Employees pay 1.5% of their salaries, not of their health care costs, so his comparison is fuzzy at best. The employee contribution rate for PERS and the teachers is 5.5% (apparently the PERS rate is 8.5% in a few cases); the cops and the firefighters pay 8.5%. This is fast and loose, so I'm not about to give him that 18.5% number on faith. I will use it, however, to illustrate how incredibly ridiculous his argument is.)

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