Category Archives: Rutgers University

Pallone Announces Over $500,000 For Job Safety Training, Pollution Prevention Efforts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. Thursday announced over half a million dollars in federal grants that will help create and maintain jobs, improve worker safety and prevent pollution in the region. The Department of Labor allocated $348,000 to two local organizations that will support in-person, hands-on training and educational programs for workers and employers in industries with especially high injury and fatality rates.

“Employees should not have to worry about their lives while they are on the job,” said Pallone. “Worker safety is the best it has ever been, but that doesn’t mean we can’t always do more to prevent accidents on the job. I’m glad to see this money go toward training that will save lives.”

Rutgers University received $180,000 that will fund hazard prevention training and materials to limited-English, low-literacy, young and hard-to-reach workers employed in the warehouse and light production industries. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey received $168,000 to update training materials and provide training on the use of fall protection in the construction industry.

Additionally, EPA awarded two grants totaling $200,000 to Rutgers to reduce the University’s carbon footprint. The first grant of $50,000 will facilitate the Center for Advanced Energy Systems implementation of a smart electrical metering system on the Busch and Livingston campuses in Piscataway. The second grant for $150,000 will help the university recruit high school students as “Water Champions” to lead water conservation changes throughout their communities. Both grants were part of approximately $4 million in grants EPA awards each year aimed at prevention pollution across the nation.

“As one of the largest universities in the region, it’s significant that Rutgers is working hard to make its carbon footprint small,” said Pallone. “Rutgers is working hard to lead the way on pollution prevention and I hope other educational institutions and localities will follow its lead. Protecting the environment also keeps and creates jobs in the area, which continues to be one of my highest priorities.”

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Filed under carbon footprint, Center for Advanced Energy Systems, Congressman Frank Pallone, EPA, Job Training, pollution prevention, press release, Rutgers University, US Department of Labor

Pallone Renews Commitment to College Affordability, Protecting Pell Grant Loan Funding


Long Branch, N.J. – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Monday will speak with Rutgers students during a roundtable discussion regarding their concerns about federal support for improving college affordability and the ongoing threat the Republican majority poses to funding federal Pell Grant loans. New Jersey students are concerned about college debt and the availability of federal Pell Grants, which for many, are the only way they are able to attend college.

During the recent debate to raise the debt ceiling in July, Republicans offered Pell Grant cuts as a way to cut the budget. These cuts were averted but as the Super Committee convenes to discuss budget cuts, Pell Grant funding may again be on the table.

WHO: Congressman Pallone will host a roundtable discussion soliciting input from Rutgers students and student organizations

WHEN: 11:00 a.m. Monday, September 12, 2011

WHERE: Rutgers Student Center
126 College Avenue, New Brunswick
Main Lounge (Across from Multi-Purpose Room)

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Filed under budget cuts, college education, Congressman Frank Pallone, media advisory, pell grants, Rutgers University, student loans, super committee

>As A Matter Of Fact…A fair exchange: Consumer driven health insurance

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May 9th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

One of the most important provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the establishment in every state of a health insurance market place, called an “exchange.”

These exchanges will allow individuals and small businesses to easily find and compare options for high quality, comprehensive health insurance. If done properly, the exchanges will increase competition in the insurance market and, in turn, lower the cost of insurance for nearly 800,000 uninsured New Jerseyans who must find coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges will also make available information about services and subsidies available to low and moderate income families.

While the federal government has set certain standards for exchanges, the Affordable Care Act offers each state broad flexibility to design its own exchange. The federal government will provide funding to operate exchanges until January 2015, when all of the exchanges must become self-sustaining. If the state has not established an exchange by then, the federal government will establish one for the state.

That process of creating an exchange has already begun in New Jersey.

The state, through its Working Group on the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act and under a federal grant, has contracted with the Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy to seek input on priorities the state should consider for the implementation of key provisions of the ACA. As part of its information gathering effort, CSHP is asking interested parties to participate in a web-based survey on the design of an exchange for New Jersey by May 11. The CHSP’s report is expected to be made public later this year.

The Legislature has also set to work. The state Senate held an informational hearing last month and three bills have been introduced to establish the basic structure of an exchange (S2553, S1288 and S2597). Much of the public discussion of the details of the final legislation will take place in the Legislature’s health and insurance committees.

One of the key issues up for discussion is the extent to which the exchanges represent the interests of consumers.

For example, the exchange can be a wide-open marketplace where all insurers may participate, regardless of how much they charge or whether they meet minimal standards to protect consumers. Because the Affordable Care Act requires everyone who is uninsured to purchase insurance, that unregulated approach might leave consumers vulnerable. Alternately, the exchange could operate as an “active purchaser.” In that role, the exchange would only allow insurers to participate if they could demonstrate that their rates are reasonable and they meet other standards aimed at protecting consumers. A similar issue involves the requirements for members of the board that will ultimately oversee the exchange. Most boards are expected to be small, so decision-making will be more manageable. That makes the composition of the board a key point. Some states are establishing very strong requirements to prohibit conflicts of interest for members of the board while others go further and ban insurers, brokers and other representatives of the health care industry. Because of the importance of the exchange to consumers, the NJ for Health Care Coalition developed a set of principles recently that should be used as a guide in finalizing any legislation on exchanges. The coalition represents a broad alliance of 68 health care, consumer and social justice organizations (including NJPP) with more than two million members. It believes the public should understand the choices being made and should actively support the principles as established by the coalition to ensure that the health care exchange in New Jersey represents consumers over special interests.

Following are the principles as adopted by the coalition:

Public Interest Mission – The New Jersey Exchange should be established in the public interest, for the benefit of the people and businesses who obtain health insurance coverage for themselves, their families and their employees. It should empower consumers by giving them the information and tools they need to make sound insurance choices. The Exchange should work to reduce the number of uninsured, improve health care quality, eliminate health disparities, control costs, and ensure access to affordable, quality, accountable care across the state.

Independent Public Exchange – The Exchange should be a distinct legal public entity that is independent of other units of state government. It should be able to perform inherently governmental functions like determining income eligibility, coordinating with other state agencies and programs, and adopt rules and policies governing health insurance plan participation. The Exchange must be transparent and subject to open meetings and public disclosure laws.

Qualified, Pro-Consumer Governing Board – Consumer representatives should comprise a majority of the board. All board members must have expertise in one or more of the following areas: consumer advocacy, individual health care coverage, small employer health care coverage, health benefits plan administration and health care finance. The governing board may not include members who are affiliated with the health care industry.

Negotiate on Behalf of Consumers – The exchange must be given the authority to act as an “active purchaser.” This means the Exchange should use its large pool of consumers to negotiate, as large groups do, for the best premiums and plans. The Exchange must use this leverage to demand quality, responsiveness to consumer concerns, reasonable rates, efficient plan designs, robust provider networks and comprehensive benefits.

Full Integration with Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare – To promote seamlessness in the application process and continuity in coverage, the Exchange plans must be fully coordinated and integrated with Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare. Plans that are available in Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare must also be available in the Exchange.

Consumer Friendly – The Exchange must be easily accessible to all consumers and small businesses, use plain, easy-to-understand language and meet established standards for language, literacy and cultural competency. The Exchange must adopt a “no wrong door” approach, meaning people can access insurance through the exchange no matter how they come to seek assistance. It must reduce paperwork for individuals and small businesses, and provide in-person, telephone and online assistance and access.

Effective Outreach and Assistance – The Exchange should contract with independent organizations that will help consumers and small groups “navigate” the various health insurance plans and services offered through the Exchange. Contractors providing these navigator programs should be free of insurer conflicts of interest and have a history of working with diverse communities. The exchange must also provide customer service that understands diverse populations, such as people with disabilities, mental health needs or low-income.

One Insurance Pool – Health insurance markets work best when risk is shared across large numbers of people. The Exchange should explore how best to transition toward a unified insurance pool that combines both the individual and small employer markets. Other opportunities to expand the pool of insured people should be explored.

Improve Health Care Quality & Promote Prevention – The Exchange should only offer plans that provide a comprehensive and high-quality package of health care services. Every plan should prioritize prevention and work to reduce health disparities. Dental and mental health benefits should be included. Health care delivery networks should include essential community providers. Patients should have access to providers who speak their native language.

Community Health – The Exchange itself should promote community health by fostering collaborations between the Exchange insurers and community organizations, such as local public health departments, mental health associations, maternal and child health consortia and disease-specific nonprofits. This will ensure the efficient delivery of health information, health promotion and disease prevention and screening services.

Ensuring Exchange Stability– The State must guard against the segregation of people by their health status. Premiums in the exchange could become very expensive if insurers and brokers have the power to steer less-healthy patients into the Exchange, keeping for themselves only healthier, more profitable enrollees. The same rules must apply to plans both inside and outside of the Exchange. The Exchange must set market protections to prevent insurers and brokers from cherry-picking healthy enrollees or steering them into or out the exchange.

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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, Consumer Driven Health Insurance(CDHI), health insurance, Insurance exchange, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ FamilyCare, Rutgers University, The Affordable Care Act

NJPP Monday Minute 8/2/10: Rutgers Report Compares NJ Public and Private Employee Compensation


NJPP’s July 19 Monday Minute asked and answered the question: are public employees overpaid? National studies suggest that, on average, public sector employees are paid less than private sector employees – particularly in professional positions – but that public employee benefits (health insurance and pensions) tend to be better than private sector benefits.

Now that question can be asked and answered about New Jersey thanks to a new report by Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations professor Jeffrey Keefe. His report has just been published by the DC-based Economic Policy Institute.

This is an important question in light of the governor’s interest in privatizing an increasing number of public services. The most significant savings in most privatization proposals come from salary savings – from reduced salaries and the constriction or elimination of benefits.

Professor Keefe’s data analysis controlled for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity and disability and found that no significant difference exists between private and public sector compensation cost on a per hour basis.

But he finds that the public and private sector use substantially different approaches to staffing and compensation.

Salaries:

  • New Jersey public sector workers, on average, are more highly educated than private sector workers: 57 percent of full time New Jersey public sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree compared to 40 percent of full time private sector workers.
  • New Jersey state and local governments pay college educated workers, on average, 10 percent less than private employers. As noted in the July 19 Monday Minute, the earnings differential is greatest for professional employees, lawyers and doctors.
  • But the public sector sets a floor on compensation. Compensation of workers without a high school education is higher for public employees than for private employees.
  • State and local government employees receive a higher portion of their compensation in the form of employer-provided benefits and the mix of benefits is different from the private sector.

Benefits:

  • Public employers contribute, on average, 34 percent of employee compensation to benefits compared to 31 percent in the private sector.
  • Health insurance accounts for 11 percent of public sector compensation, but only seven percent of private sector employees’ compensation.
  • Retirement benefits are eight percent of public employees’ compensation compared to four percent in the public sector. And most public employees participate in defined benefit pension plans, while more private sector employers have switched to defined contribution plans such as 401(k) plans. A significant difference between these two plans is risk. Defined contribution plans shift much of the risk from the employer to the employee.

Using a standard earnings equation, Dr. Keefe estimates that fulltime state and local employees are under-compensated by about four percent. When the number of hours worked is included in the calculation, there is no significant difference in total compensation between fulltime state and local employees and private sector employees.

It is alleged that public employee unions and collective bargaining have produced an over-compensated workforce. Eligible public employees are almost completely unionized in New Jersey. It is well known that taxpayers do not want to pay higher taxes and so exert considerable pressure on elected officials to resist increases in compensation, creating an incentive to hold government below market compensation.

This report only considers fulltime public employees in New Jersey. It makes a strong case that fulltime public sector workers are not the cause and cannot be the solution to the state’s financial problems.

Lessons for privatization
It is likely that schemes to privatize state services will fail to result in savings if those services require more than a high school education – since the compensation differential between private sector and public sector salaries tends to be greatest as education levels increase.

Even in situations where a high school education is sufficient, savings may be questionable when health insurance and pensions are considered. When the Whitman administration privatized janitorial services in state buildings, state employees lost their jobs and benefits. The average state salary for a custodian at that time was just under $20,000 with benefits. When state office buildings were raided after the private contractor was hired, it was discovered that a number of the new cleaning staff were undocumented workers working off the books at below minimum wage with no benefits. The only person who benefits from this situation is the private contractor as long as he doesn’t get caught.

The actual cost to the public of low wage private sector workers is greater than people think. People with no health insurance, no vacation or sick days and no retirement are cheaper for their private sector employers to hire, but ultimately are supported by public services.

The children of the person who drives the privately owned school bus, often qualify for New Jersey’s FamilyCare program because they have no other health insurance. That driver personally may use emergency rooms in the hospital more because he or she can’t afford to go to the doctor. If that person’s child is very sick, New Jersey generally allows her to take paid family leave so she can take care of her child. If that person has no employer-sponsored retirement plan, she will need greater public support in his or her old age.

What everyone seems to forget is that when the private sector fails to provide for its workers, it is the public and the taxpayer who picks up the slack. What may seem like a good deal often doesn’t include the hidden costs.

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Filed under compensation, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ FamilyCare, private employees, Professor Jeffrey Keefe, public employees, Rutgers University

Obama To Make Corzine Campaign Appearence

President Obama will be coming to New Jersey on July 16th to give the Corzine campaign a lift.

The President will join the Governor and other dignitaries in New Brunswick, at Voorhees Mall on the campus of Rutgers University.

In the email that announced the President’s visit Governor Corzine states:

” I’ve written to you before about the importance of keeping our hard-won progressive victories from November going and about moving New Jersey forward in-step with the Obama Administration.

Now, I want you to hear it directly from the President himself.

Vice President Biden was already here and got our campaign started with a bang. On July 16th, President Barack Obama will join me at Rutgers University in New Brunswick to help to kick our campaign into a whole new gear.

President Obama isn’t just a close friend of mine; he’s a great friend to our state. After eight long years, we finally have a partner in Washington who shares our values and vision for a more progressive New Jersey.

Together, we are creating green jobs, providing universal access to healthcare for kids, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and ensuring all our children have access to a quality education — regardless of where they live.

We are doing all of this despite a challenging worldwide economic crisis, and I’m proud of the great progress that Barack Obama and I have already have made.

But we still have more to do, and with a partner in Washington who shares our values and priorities, I’m confident in what we can accomplish in the next four years.

I’m honored that President Obama will be on hand in New Jersey to recognize the important work we’re doing, and I hope you will join us.”

If you would like to join President Obama in his support of the Governor’s re-election you can RSVP >>> Here to reserve free tickets for the event

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Filed under campaign event, Corzine'09, Gov. Jon Corzine, President Obama, Rutgers University

Extra Extra Read All About It – The Courier Is Sold To New Owner

Yesterday was a sad day after I read the post on Melissa Gaffney’s blog Sableminded about the April 1st demise of the Courier newspaper.
I have been a fan of the Courier for  a long time, and have been lending this blog to the online version of it for a number of months now. At one point I was considering having MiddletownMike visitors redirected to the Courier version of this blog. I had been hearing for quite awhile that the Courier was in trouble and that it’s future was in question, but I had thought and hope that the paper would somehow survive and live on in some form or another, but due to that uncertainty  the redirect just never seemed to happen.
When the Courier’s publisher Jim Purcell announced that the Courier was only going to publish bi-weekly and that through a partnership with Rutgers University, it was going to attempt to survive on-line as a web based publication, I was at first disheartened.  I became encouraged a few weeks later however when I was told by Jim that it looked like the web based model was going to work out, revenue had already increased over the previous months due to the new venture with Rutgers.
So, when I heard a couple of weeks ago that the Azzolina family had changed their mind and no longer desired to be in the news business it came as a mild shock, if they couldn’t find a buyer they were going to shutdown operations.  I didn’t quite want to believe it, after all the paper seemed to be on track to  profitability once again. Needless to say then, that when I stopped by the office to say hello, it was a rather gloomy place.  
Today though, when I returned home from work and logged onto the blog I noticed  the headline on the Courier widget “The Courier is sold to new owner“, my spirits were lifted.
I don’t know who has brought the Courier or whether or not that they intend to keep the online version up and running, but I am happy that they did. It would have been a real loss to the bayshore if the paper had folded, the Courier after all has been a staple of northern Monmouth County for since 1955. 
As for MiddletownMike’s future with the Courier, I don’t have an answer for that just yet. I need to make a few phone calls to see what the future may hold. I am just glad that the paper did not fade away like so many others have done lately.
I am also happy to think that some of the people at the Courier, who have become my friends, may now not have to worry about losing their jobs and finding employment elsewhere. I hope  

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Filed under Bayshore, blogs, demise of newspapers, Jim Purcell, Joe Azzolina, Melissa Gaffney, Monmouth County, Rutgers University, Sableminded, The Courier, web-based publication