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, February 22, 2011

"Rich" Benefits

If I win the lottery someday, I won't buy a boat or a fancy car or take a world cruise.

No, I'm going to go crazy and buy my family some health insurance!
The governor conditioned a doubling of the middle-class property tax rebate, for example, on the passage of changes that would make public employees pay 30 percent of the cost of their health insurance, compared with an average of 8 percent that Mr. Christie said many now pay.
He also offered to make a partial payment to the state’s woefully underfunded pension system, but only if the system was overhauled to require bigger payments from workers, smaller payouts and an increase in the retirement age.
“Please, let’s not pick the special interests over our overburdened taxpayers,” Mr. Christie said during his budget address.
Mr. Christie said that even in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to cut the benefits and collective bargaining rights of public workers had set off a firestorm of protests, officials “have decided there can no longer be two classes of citizens: one that receives rich health and pension benefits, and all the rest who are left to pay for them.”
Nice - either you get your property tax rebates or my kid gets to go to the doctor. Way to pull us together, Guv!

Personally, I don't have a problem with a transition to a federal employee-style health insurance plan - IF I'm getting paid a federal salary. An employee beginning in, say, law enforcement can weigh the TOTAL compensation of a state or local or federal job based on both their salary and their benefits. I've tried to find some data on this (I'll keep looking), but it seems to me we'd be hard pressed to find FBI agents if state troopers were making the same salary but getting cheap health care. It just doesn't make sense otherwise.

This is why everything Christie talks about isn't a freeze for teachers at all - it's a cut, and a very big one at that.

The pension payment is a joke: half a billion doesn't address last year's reneging on the pension payment, let alone solve the problem long term. Christie talks about how unfair it is for the unions to have compulsory dues, yet teachers and cops and all public workers must pay into a pension that he won't even come close to fully funding.

You'll notice no one save a few yahoos on his side is calling for unvested workers to opt out of the system. The reason, as the savvy ones all know, is that those mandatory contributions are all that's keeping the current system afloat. Take that away and the pension goes bust. So public workers are forced into a system they are told is unsustainable; great incentive to stay in public service, huh? Will this bring in all of those great, new, young teachers we need, Derrell?

But there's always money somewhere for another tax cut:
Most galling to union leaders, who argue that the governor is using them as scapegoats for an economic crisis they say was caused by Wall Street millionaires, was Mr. Christie’s call for $200 million in new tax breaks, including an increase in the estate-tax exemption to $1 million, from $675,000. The governor said this would help small-business owners.
Let's be clear on this: the "rich" benefits we're talking about here are health insurance and a modest retirement from a system workers are FORCED to pay into. That, apparently, is far, far too generous for the people who teach our kids or run into burning buildings or put themselves in the line of fire every day.

Instead, we need to make sure those who inherit $900,000 pay as much in taxes as those who inherit $900.

Who, exactly, are the "special interests" that are causing all of our problems?

No comments: