Category Archives: public unions

Countdown: How Big a ‘Bully’ is Chris Christie?

If you haven’t been keeping up with Keith Olbermann since returning to the airwaves last month,you’ve been missing out on some good TV. Last night Olbermann ran a segment that addressed NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney’s recent outburst concerning Governor Christie use of the line-item veto to slash many provisions out of the Democratically crafted State budget.

Sweeney went ballistic on Friday, calling Christie every name in the book after learning of the cuts. Evidently Sweeney is feeling a little betrayed and let down by the Governor after delivering him his victory in the fight over pension and benefit reforms with state workers unions.

In the future, Stephen Sweeney should be a little more leery about who he intended to make a bed with. Once you decide to sleep with them, your soiled for life and it is hard to undo sleaziness of how you feel after.

After all, what did Sweeney expect from a big bully like Chris Christie? Once a bully, always a bully. Your either a friend or a foe, there’s no in-between. And Christie has made it very evident what he considers Sweeney to be. The problem for Sweeney however, is that many of his constituents around the state are also beginning to see where Sweeney stands on the issues and they don’t like it.

On Friday, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney called Governor Chris Christie a “bully” and a “rotten bastard.” And that wasn’t all. Keith talks with Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo about the political betrayal that set Sweeney off and what it reveals about New Jersey’s large-and-in-charge governor.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

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Filed under Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension reform, line item veto, NJ State Budget, public unions, Stephen Sweeney

>Fine Print: Senate Bill No. 2937 Proposed legislation would dictate sweeping changes to public employees’ pensions and healthcare benefits

>By John Mooney – NJSPOTLIGHT.com

Synopsis: “An act concerning public employee pension and health care benefits, and amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law and repealing P.L.1999, c.96 and P.L.1985, c.414. Makes various changes to pension and healthcare benefits for public employees”

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Senate Bill No. 2937

Primary sponsor: Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester)

What it means: The 120-page bill makes sweeping changes to public employees’ contributions to their pension and health benefit plans, and to the rules that dictate those benefits. Pensions and benefits have been at the center of debate between Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature since Christie took office, and the apparent agreement on this bill — at least for now — has consumed Trenton for much of the last week and likely for the next.

It’s all in the details: The new bill, introduced yesterday, would require public employees pay up to an additional 2.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, and up to 30 percent of their healthcare premiums. But how the law meets those thresholds represents the key differences between what Christie has sought and what Sweeney now proposes, with the Democratic leader phasing in some of the increases and also scaling the healthcare contribution, depending on salary. Low-paid public workers will barely make any contribution at all.

Riding off into the sunset clause: Sweeney struck a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) in introducing the bill to also include Oliver’s proposal that the health benefits changes would have a “sunset clause” and revert to being a subject of collective bargaining in 2014. Christie has not yet commented on the proposed sunset, but has appeared reluctant to back any reforms that have a limited shelf life.

What’s next: The Senate budget committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill tomorrow, with the Assembly budget committee slated to hold its own hearing on the companion bill on Monday.

The reaction: Needless to say, public employees unions aren’t taking too well to the ideas, and have big protests planned tomorrow for the Statehouse and maybe legislators’ homes. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is also holding a press conference today to point out what it calls the false assumptions and savings in the proposals.

Will it pass? That of course, is the bottom line. It’s as close as ever to passage, to be sure, but it faces lots of questions both in substance and politics. Sweeney has said he will push it through, even if it means defying some of his Democratic caucus. Oliver has been less willing, and has indicated she may not post it for final vote without consent of her members.

In the end, it will require what was once unfathomable: a sizable number of Democrats going against organized labor during an election year. But these are remarkable times, with similar measures passing in other states with Democratic support.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension reform, NJEA, NJspotlight, public unions, senate bill 2937, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney

>A Comment Worthy Enough For Front Page Posting

>I received the following blog comment from reader Judy Repic, who was responding to my March 11th post Doesn’t Anyone Remember Christine Whitman? . I thought that it was a worthwhile comment that should be shared with everyone, so I’ve posted it below:

My question in all of this pension discussion is did either Florio or Whitman take just the portion that the state provided,or did they include the payments made by employees also? Governor Christie was a member of Morris County freeholders when this happened. His comment about “getting in the delorean and going back in time” is pretty cavalier when he was an elected official at the time.

Also, why should any man or woman who have to wear a protective vest have to conceed to giving up anything? Every day active members of PFRS kiss their spouse and family members good by, and that family member has to wonder for 8 hours if they will be welcoming them home or planning a funeral. These State Employees should never have to conceed to anything.

But,hisotically, politicians know how to push the buttons of the general public by accusing state workers of being overpaid for underperformance. The politicians can rile up the hard working general public into a frenzy by saying their world would be better if “x” changes are made. Attacking state workers pay is normally the “x” they use. However, the civil service test is open to everyone, it does not discrimate on any level, so in reality, every citizen in the state of New Jersey has the potential to become a state employee based on a test score.

How about the Governor, Assembly, and Senate start cutting some of their aids, secretaries, close down redundant posititions in Trenton. How about they post the pay of career Trenton employees with that of Police,Fire, Rescue and Corrections Officers who when 911 is dialed show up to aid you.

I am sick of all state employees being considered as lazy and over paid.

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Filed under blog, Gov. Christie Whitman, Middletown Mike, New Jersey, public unions, reader comments, state employees, worker benefits

>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