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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pension Nonsense

So this is Christie's big pension plan, huh? All about cutting benefits and increasing EMPLOYER contributions - nothing about even implementing any regular EMPLOYEE contributions.

It stands to reason. He has to meet the state's obligations, the market won't save him, and he can't piss off his patrons by starting to get wealthy individuals and corporations in this state to start paying their fair share. Where else to turn but to take more from workers while giving them less?

It's not like NJ's pension system is so much more generous than any other state's. Sure, times are tough all around, but NJ has been inordinately bad about meeting its obligations. Our pension holiday has finally caught up to us, and Christie is going to disappear our history of a lack of government funding to screw public workers yet again.

I'm glad Steve Sweeney is holding his feet to the fire, but letting him get away with saying the only way to fund the pension is through cuts is ludicrous. The people who benefitted from pension holidays were not the middle class - they were the wealthy, because the holidays allowed us to continue to use an archaic and regressive property tax system to fund the majority of state and local spending. It's time to have them start paying their fair share - the party's over, and the bill is due.

The chances of that happening, however, are close to zero - so I say we call his bluff.

If Christie's "reforms" go through, the NJEA ought to turn to him and say: "OK, in that case, we're out. You are on the hook for all current obligations - but our members are no longer going to contribute. Everyone not vested gets their money back with interest; no one contributes anything more into the system.

"Instead, WE"LL run the whole thing. We'll move to defined contribution if we have to, but it will be better than the raw deal you're proposing. We'll take over all retirement benefits from now on, and we'll be overseen by members, a public board, and federal regulators - certainly better than what we have now. So you don't get to touch our money any more - you're out.

"And we'll negotiate employer contributions with the districts. Try to stop that and we'll see you in the Supreme Court."

In many ways, it would be his worst nightmare. ALL obligations would have to be met by the state's contributions and investment returns. I'd love to see him weasel out of that one.

Well, I can dream...

No comments: