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Pension Reform Needed Now

February 26, 2010

Chris Christie

Everyone knows the financial problems that the state is currently facing.  Governor Christie has made speeches and appearances all over talking about the problems and the steps that he is taking to start making New Jersey affordable again.  However, a major step that is needed in any plan is reforming the New Jersey Pension system.  As someone who is vested in the State pension system, I can tell you that I contribute 5 ½% of my salary into the system, and much like Social Security, that is money I really don’t believe that I will ever see again. 

 The truth is, rank and file state workers who are usually much maligned are currently the ones carrying the system.  For several years, any pay increase was diverted out of our paychecks and into the system, while Governors and the State Legislature has failed to make any of the States payments into the system, instead squandering the money on many failed social experiments that have now made New Jersians the most taxed in the country.

As someone who contributes to the pension system, I believe that I have several solutions that will help to make the system work again, and be fair to both pension recipients and the taxpayers.  First and foremost, anyone within ten years of retirement must be left in the current system, while anyone with more than ten years left until retirement give the option to convert part of their pension savings into a 401(k) type system.  The remaining part should be used to help fund the current pension.  Finally, anyone who has been working for the state for less than three years, or new State workers should be converted/enrolled in a 401(k) program that will allow the state to eventually phase out the pension system.  One of the main problems with the system is the growth of State Workers under the Corzine administration, which added 12 state jobs for every 1 public sector job.  The state, and more importantly the taxpayers,  just cannot afford to give these workers pensions.  Another major benefit to switching to a 401(k) type system is the elimination of political games played by special interest groups who want to control the pension investments, and will instead give more power to the individuals in the system.

Another big problem with the system is the number of people in the state that have pension from two, three or even six different state or municipal agencies.  Most of these are political patronage jobs that need to be eliminated, but the first step is to limit anyone in the system to one pension based on their highest paying position.

Along the lines of limiting the number of pensions, a change in the pension calculation formula needs to be made.  One long standing practice in the state is for someone to work in a very low paying part time position for the majority of their career, only to be rewarded with a high paying job the last three years of their career so that they can given a large pension.  Of course, they have contributed little, if anything into the system, and as a result are basically robbing from the taxpayers and rank and file workers.  The formula must be changed in a way that protects those who have paid in for their entire careers, while limiting those who are trying to cheat the system.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, any elected official that has been convicted of a crime must also, automatically, be stripped of their pension.  One of New Jersey’s major problems is the perception of corruption in our state and local governments.  As elected officials who represent the people, they must be held to a higher standard.  Anyone who violates the trust they are given by the people should have to pay an equally large price for that violation.

These are just some of my ideas.  I’m sure many of them will be brought up and debated now that the Legislature is taking up pension reform again, something former Governor Corzine put a halt to.   As the citizens of New Jersey, we must watch our elected officials closely as the pension system has been a gold mine for too many special interests for too long, while the taxpayers and rank and file workers have had to pay, and pay, and pay.

That’s my opinion, I’m sticking to it.

Marc Fleischner
Berlin Boro

One Comment leave one →
  1. Randy permalink
    April 2, 2010 11:40 pm

    Not contributing to the pension plan will put it further into debt. Its like not paying your credit card bill. By not paying the 3 billion dollars into the pension system, Christie has plunged it futher into debt. That 3 billion dollar missed payment will not doubt be a 10 billion dollar payment next year because Christie skipped another payment. If he would have paid, he would have saved the state 7 billion dollars, but instead he just put it off as past governors have done. Nothing has changed.

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