Category Archives: health benefits and pension

A Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican

As posted on

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards.

He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised. All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should loose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans.

The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark)

He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home. He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”.

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Filed under, health benefits and pension, Joe Republican, Liberals, Middle Class, Republicans, retirement benefits, unions

>Finally Some One Explains "Why employee pensions aren’t bankrupting states"


It’s good to see that the news media is finally starting to wake up and tell it like it is when it comes to all the fall information being spread by the ubber-conservative wing-nuts who are insisting that public union employees and their pensions are bankrupting states all around the country.

The following article is from McClatchy Newspapers –

WASHINGTON — From state legislatures to Congress to tea party rallies, a vocal backlash is rising against what are perceived as too-generous retirement benefits for state and local government workers. However, that widespread perception doesn’t match reality.

A close look at state and local pension plans across the nation, and a comparison of them to those in the private sector, reveals a more complicated story. However, the short answer is that there’s simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim.

Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t blowing up budgets. They amount to just 2.9 percent of state spending, on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure a bit higher at 3.8 percent.

Though there’s no direct comparison, state and local pension contributions approximate the burden shouldered by private companies. The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that retirement funding for private employers amounts to about 3.5 percent of employee compensation.

Nor are state and local government pension funds broke. They’re underfunded, in large measure because — like the investments held in 401(k) plans by American private-sector employees — they sunk along with the entire stock market during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And like 401(k) plans, the investments made by public-sector pension plans are increasingly on firmer footing as the rising tide on Wall Street lifts all boats.

Boston College researchers project that if the assets in state and local pension plans were frozen tomorrow and there was no more growth in investment returns, there’d still be enough money in most state plans to pay benefits for years to come.

“On average, with the assets on hand today, plans are able to pay annual benefits at their current level for another 13 years. This assumes, pessimistically, that plans make no future pension contributions and there is no growth in assets,” said Jean-Pierre Aubry, a researcher specializing in state and local pensions for the nonpartisan Center for Retirement Research at Boston College….

Read more >>> Here

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Filed under bankrupting the states, health benefits and pension, McClatchy Newspapers, public employees, public unions

>Are Public Workers Really the "Villains" Or Are They Being Scapegoated By Politicians

>In this second clip from last night’s Rachel Maddow Show,which also features Gov. Chris Christie prominently, guest host Chris Hayes, DC Editor of The Nation magazine focuses on whether or not the mindless and faceless members of public employee unions are the real culprits behind the $100 billion budget shortfall that States throughout the country are facing.

Speaking of teachers, fireman, policeman and others, guest Dorrin Warren an Assistant Professor of International Affairs at Columbia University states, …” I think that as soon as you dehumanize and disassociate from real human beings it makes it easy to create a villain to attack…I think this is a convenient attack instead of focusing on the real villains of economic crisis, bankers, Wall Street, of actual people that made decisions that put us where we are today, its much easier to create new villains out of public sector workers, who are police officer, teachers, firefighters, who are our neighbors, our friends, our relatives.”

The bottom line in all this simple, if the $8 trillion dollar housing bubble did not burst and the state of economy was not as it is today, than politicians would not be going after public workers they way that they have. As stated in the report public workers salaries on average across the nation is ~4% less than private employee salaries, it’s states like NJ that have shorted public pension systems over the years that have created much of this problem themselves and are attempting to skirt the responsibilities and promises that they have made to their employees.

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Filed under Chris Hayes, Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension, public employees, scapegoats, The Nation, villains

Another Example Of mayor Gerry Not Telling The Whole Truth For Political Gain, Middletown PBA Given 7.7% Pay Raise

Tomorrow is June 8th, Primary Day, and seeing that mayor Gerry has a primary opponent this year in challenger Tony Avallone, it’s time to point out one more example of how Gerry Scharfenberger likes to twist facts and issue half-truths for political gain when he thinks it is advantagous to do do.

Back on May 17th during the Middletown Township Committee meeting in which it was announced by mayor Gerry that he spent days lamenting over the school budget and decided to cut an additional $2.1 million once from it, he again felt compelled to bluster a half truth in order to make it seem that he had accomplished the almost impossible, while basking in the glory of sticking it to the Board of Education.

During committee comments that evening, Gerry couldn’t wait to tell everyone what a wonderful accomplishment he had been able to pull off. It seems that during the executive session meeting which was held before the open public portion of the meeting, Gerry and his fellow committee members received the heads up that 2 out of the 4 or 5 unions that service the township had excepted a zero percent pay increase for FY 2010. To Gerry this was great news and an opportunity to score some cheap political points with those that were in attendance for the public portion of the meeting by letting them know that this was a great accomplishment that would go a long way in helping the township balance it’s budget that has a deficit of $5 million.

When mayor Gerry prematurely made this announcement during committee comments (I say prematurely because all the details weren’t known at the time) he received a few “that a boys” from people in the audience. But if he would have told those in the audience the whole story and not just a convenient half truth I doubt that those that cheered him would have done so.

(Here’s Gerry making the announcement)

Out of the two unions that settled their contracts with the Township I was able to get the details behind one of them, PBA Local 124, which represent the officers of the Middletown Police Department. To their credit, the police accepted a zero percent increase for 2010 and agreed to contribute 1.5% of “pensionable base salary” toward their health benefits effective on July 1,2010 (which thanks to Gov. Christie they would have had to have done anyway), and they gave up 96 hours worth of holiday pay provisions.

What did Middletown have to give up in return?

The Township settled with PBA Local 124 by agreeing to a retro active pay increase of 3.85% for FY 2008 and an additional 3.85% retro active increase for FY 2009 for a total of a 7.7% pay increase that members of the PBA would see in their next paychecks.

Oh yeah and that 96 hours of holiday pay that was eliminated, well it really wasn’t. The 96 hours worth of pay was rolled into the base pay of PBA members, so it wasn’t lost at all, it is just not considered overtime anymore.

Don’t get me wrong,I don’t begrudge the fine men and women of the Middletown Police Department anything here, they do a fine job and should be rewarded. The purpose of pointing out their settlment is strickly to show that mayor Gerry Scharfenberger has a problem with presenting the whole truth when the whole truth may not be politically advantagous for him to do so.

While I don’t expect Tony Avallone to unseat Scharfenberger tomorrow in the Republican primary, I do expect him to make a strong showing that will shock many in town into paying closer attention to what Gerry Schafenberger does and says in the future because the last thing Middletown needs when facing a $5 million budget deficit is another politician who can’t be honest and tell the truth to residents.

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Filed under 0% increase, Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, half-truths, health benefits and pension, Middletown Police, Middletown Township Committee, pay freeze, Tony Avallone, union contracts

Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) – The Ticking Time Bomb

From Sean Byrnes’s Moblize Middletown Blog:

Many of us have heard the warning cries over the condition of our State’s pension system. Estimates suggest we are $50 billion in the hole. Governor Whitman’s actions to revalue the pension system’s assets and subsequent failures to provide funding have created a canyon-sized shortfall. I am hoping that Governor Christie will act swiftly to end our system of defined benefit pensions and move us to a defined contribution pension system where employees fund their own pensions. We cannot continue to promise employees fixed amounts of money in retirement with no legitimate system for funding these obligations.

But our State’s failures when it comes to employee benefits have not been limited to pensions. I recently received Middletown’s audit for 2008 and noticed a comment section dealing with Other Post Employment Benefits (“OPEB”). I had not previously seen this term. As it turns out, many employees are counting on OPEB; namely, health benefits during their retirement. And, of course, our State and local municipalities have been promising generous benefits.

Statewide, estimates by PEW show New Jersey at the bottom when it comes to funding these benefits. New Jersey has the highest unfunded actuarially accrued benefit liability (UAAL) among all states. It also has the highest per capita debt with a value of $7,947, which reflects a UAAL of 139.66 as a percent of the state budget and an Annual Required Contribution toward these accrued benefits of 11.85 percent. In terms of real numbers, New Jersey should be contributing $1.88 billion each year toward these benefits, but actually contributes $310 million.

Unfortunately, Middletown’s numbers are worse. Middletown promises health benefits for life to those employees who earn a pension. I will confess that I did not have a full understanding of where Middletown stood when it came to funding retiree health benefits. Returning to the Comment in the 2008 audit, I noted that Middletown’s “Annual Required Contribution (ARC) for the year ended December 31, 2008 was $10,196,400 of which $1,659,200 was funded by the amount expended for these benefits.” I was astounded. If I was reading this correctly and understanding it, we underfunded our OPEB obligation by $8,537,200.

Why has this obligation flown under the radar? Until recently, local entities made these commitments without any requirement to show this obligation on their balance sheets. It has been “pay as you go”, meaning that you pay the health benefits as they come due, but you don’t set aside funds in advance. But the reporting requirements have changed. Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 45 (GASB 45) now requires disclosure. While these substantial financial commitments remain off the official books of local governments, municipalities must now provide actuarial estimates of what these accrued liabilities amount to. Staring in 2008, municipalities with more than 100 employees were required to provide information concerning their OPEB liability. Local Finance Notice 2009-13R outlined this requirement:

Local authorities are required to recognize the OPEB liability in Statements of Revenues, Expenses and Changes in Net Assets (balance sheets) and Notes to the Financial Statements in accordance with GASB Statement 45.

I recently learned that Middletown had contracted for this required study. We received it in November 2009. Through 37 pages, it reviews Middletown’s obligations and explains how the annual required contribution (ARC) of over $10 million is calculated. While someone might quibble with some of the assumptions, there seems to be little question that Middletown’s taxpayers have a growing financial obligation that remains severely underfunded.


Filed under health benefits and pension, Middletown NJ, Moblize Middletown, Other post employment benefits(OPEB), s, Sean F. Byrnes, state pension system

Middletown’s Patrick Short Has Kept all of His Promises and Does Not Accept Township Benefits

Middletown’s Democratic Committeeman Patrick Short is the only elected official in the State that does not accept a salary, does not take health benefits and does not participate in the NJ State Pension System.

He has kept every promise to the voter that he made while seeking office in 2006 such as not, not voting to raise our municipal tax rate, not taking health benefits, not participating in the state pension system, and establishing pay-to-play and ethics reform ordinances.

While others on the Township Committee and those who seek office can talk-the-talk, Patrick Short has shown that he walks-the-walk and gets result.

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Filed under health benefits and pension, Middletown Democrats, Middletown NJ, Patrick Short, state pension system

Middletown Passes Ordinance To Eliminate Health Bennies for TOMSA Commissioners, Sorta

I attended the Middletown Township Committee meeting last night, a meeting that I am happy to say ended early, if you think that 10:25 PM is early.  Typically these meetings in Middletown have been know to last till midnight on occasion.

One of the more interesting outcomes of tonight’s meeting was the passage of an ordinance to eliminate the health benefits for commissioners of the Township Of Middeltown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA). What made it interesting was the fact all current commissioners of TOMSA have been grandfathered under the ordinance and will be able to keep their benefits! The ordinance only applies to newly appointed commissioners.
That’s right read it for yourself below: 

This is a copy of Ordinance No. 2009-2967 that was introduced at a scheduled meeting of the Township Committee of the Township of  Middletown, April 20, 2009 held over for further consideration upon second and final passage at a meeting of the said Township Committee
to be held In the Main Meeting Room in the Township Hall, One Kings Highway, Middletown, on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 8:00 p.m., at which time all persons interested will be given an opportunity to be heard.


WHEREAS, the Township Committee of the Township of Middletown has previously eliminated the receipt of health benefits for members of the Township Committee and other appointed officials; and

WHEREAS, the Township Committee of the Township of Middletown believes it is the best interest of the taxpayers of the Township to eliminate the receipt of pension and/or health benefits by part-time elected and appointed officials; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to the Sewerage Authorities Law, N.J.S.A. 40:14A-5(d), the Township Committee is limited in its ability to amend the compensation paid commissioners of the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority; and 

WHEREAS, the recently adopted Public Employee Pension and Benefits Reform Act of 2008, P.L. 2008, c. 89, however, helps restrict the Public Employment Retirement System benefits and eligibility for health benefits received by any commissioner of the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority appointed after November 2, 2008.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED, by the Township Committee of  Middletown Township, County of Monmouth, State of New Jersey, that Chapter 47 of the Code of the Township of Middletown (1996) be amended to include the following:

§ 47-5. Benefits Restricted.

No member of the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority hereinafter appointed shall be eligible to receive any benefits not otherwise provided for pursuant to the provisions of P.L. 2008, c. 89.
This is really an outrage and a few people questioned the logic behind grandfathering in the current commissioners for as long as they continue to serve on the board of TOMSA continuously.
A few people were upset because according to the Public Employee Pension and Benefits Reform Act of 2008, that is soon to take effect, any part-time worker or appointed official who earns less then $7,500 a year would no longer be eligible for benefits.
Committeeman Sean Byrnes wrote the original draft of the ordinance which intended to have benefits for the commissioners end upon the dates that their currents terms expire but it was changed by Township Attorney Brian Nelson to protect current sitting TOMSA commissioners. 
It should also be noted that after presenting the revised  ordinance to the committee, Mr. Byrnes’s name was missing from it and Mayor Pam Brightbill’s name was in his place, which is another clear and sad example of how the GOP majority tries to take credit for ideas that weren’t their own.
In this case however, Mayor Pam can take the credit and the consequences that go along with it.
All of the Sewerage Authority commissioners have been good loyal Middletown Republican insiders, they have been either Republican mayors, committee members or party leaders and this blatant attempt by the Middletown GOP majority to protect their own will not go unnoticed by residents who are struggling to make ends meet.
Nepotism and Cronyism has to end in Middletown, if it doesn’t then residents will forever be burdened with its outcome of high taxes and inefficient government. 
Residents have to remember that when the current TOMSA commissioners  terms expire that they insist that they not be reappointed. Otherwise they will continue to receive costly health benefits for a job that pays them $1750 for less than 12 hours of work per year.     


Filed under Brian Nelson, health benefits and pension, Middletown, Middletown Republicans, Pamela Brightbill, Sean F. Byrnes, TOMSA

Update: TOMSA Complies With OPRA Request… Sort Of

I have an update to yesterdays post concerning the Township Of Middletown Sewage Authority’s stonewalling of Carolyn Schwebel’s OPRA request.
I received an email from Mrs. Schwebel stating that she received documents, via fax, of some of the documents that she had requested:
“The figures are large. I had asked for the TOMSA Commissioners’ pension, etc., but it’s not clear if they gave me that or the whole amount that includes TOMSA employees as well.

There is an arrogant resolution that at a meeting February 12, 2009, Tom Stokes made a motion that was passed unanimously that “each member of TOMSA” receive salary of $1750 except the chairperson who will get $2150 a year starting February 1, 2009! (Can they back date that way?

Lots of nerve in these times, when people are questioning TOMSA’s salary and the twp. committee has terminated its own.”

Carolyn Schwebel then sent a follow-up email that stated that she contacted TOMSA Director Patrick Parkinson for clarification:
“I have one question, as I’m not clear on terminology. I had asked for the TOMSA Commissioners’ pension ,insurance etc. Are the figures you sent for just the TOMSA commissioners, (Stokes, , Rogers, Raisch, Hinckley, Buow, Smith, Wrede) ) or do they also include payment for regular TOMSA employees as well.?”

Parkinson responded by writing,  “The pension payments are a total for all TOMSA employees.”

Come on Pat, this is totally unacceptable and a bad job on your part. 
You stonewall and provide false information to Mrs. Schwebel, in an attempt to discourage her request for information and them when you do provide the information, it is not the specific information that Mrs. Schwebel requested. 
Mrs. Schwebel sent me a copy of her OPRA request form and the documents that you supplied. She specifically stated that she was interested in just commissioners and alternate commissioners compensation. Not the two documents that you supplied her with that shows the total monthly cost of health benefits and pension for all that work for TOMSA
I am currently looking into the above statement of Mrs. Schwebel’s that mentions the raise in the yearly stipend that the TOMSA commissioner’s voted for themselves. This information was included with her OPRA request. When I track down further information on this, I’ll pass it along.    

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Filed under Carolyn Schwebel, health benefits and pension, Middletown, OPRA requests, Patrick Parkinson, TOMSA