By Charles Wowkanech and Hetty Rosenstein
Gov. Chris Christie often says he wants public-sector benefits to mirror what's offered to employees in the private sector. However, the governor won't dare mention that shorting pension funds in the private sector is illegal. Only in government can Christie get away with flouting his pension obligation without legal ramifications.
For all Christie's bluster about "exhorbitant" benefits plans, the truth is that New Jersey's average yearly pension benefit of $26,000 is among the nation's least generous — 95th in benefit generosity out of America's 100 largest pension funds. And he doesn't tell you that the average New Jersey government employee pays more out-of-pocket for individual health insurance than government workers in any other state.
The governor flat out isn't being factual when he claims a typical government employee pays $126,000 toward pension and health benefits and receives $2.4 million in return.Read more
New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech issued the following statement on the State Investment Council’s 2015 Annual Report:
“It’s outrageous that hundreds of millions of dollars in pension funds fly out the door each year and into the hands of wealthy outside money managers. New Jersey’s retired public workers receive a $26,000 per year pension on average, so the only people getting rich off our pension system are the fund managers reaping obscene fees and bonuses,” says Wowkanech.Read more
Legislature OKs Ballot Questions to Fund Pensions, Transportation; Senate Approves Casino Expansion Proposal
The Legislature wrapped up the session on Monday by approving ballot questions asking voters to dedicate additional funds to transportation projects and require the state to make full pension payments. The Senate also OK’d a ballot question allowing the expansion of casino gaming. The Assembly is set to vote on the question in the next session, which starts Tuesday.
Here is a rundown of legislative activity:Read more
Public hearings on ballot questions to dedicate additional funds to meet our transportation needs, fully fund pensions and expand casino gaming were held on Thursday, and the full Senate was in session for floor votes in the afternoon. Here is a rundown of the day’s legislative activity:
Motor Fuel Tax Dedication (ACR-1). The Assembly Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on this resolution, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, to amend the constitution to dedicate more money to the Transportation Trust Fund without raising the 10.5-cent gas tax or the 13.5-cent tax on diesel fuels. The amendment asks voters to dedicate all revenues from the motor fuels and petroleum products gross receipts tax to fund the state’s transportation needs. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO supported the resolution in committee.Read more
Public employees have never skipped a pension payment. However, years of mismanagement by the state has brought New Jersey’s pension system to the brink of disaster. We strongly support a ballot question that requires the state to live up to its pension funding obligation. Simply put: We support this proposal to save workers’ pensions.
Requiring the state to live up to its obligation to fund pensions will restore New Jersey’s retirement system to fiscal health for the 800,000 active and retired workers who are counting on receiving the modest pension they earned.Read more
Statewide Earned Sick Leave Passed by Senate, Resolution to Fund Pensions Advanced by Assembly Committee
The New Jersey Senate and Assembly were in session on Thursday afternoon following committee meetings earlier in the day. Here is a summary of the day’s legislative action:
Statewide Earned Sick Leave (S-785/A-4103). The New Jersey State AFL-CIO and its coalition partner, Working Families United for New Jersey (WFUNJ), have been leading the campaign for statewide earned sick leave legislation that would benefit all workers.
The bill allows workers to earn sick time for hours worked, and is a common-sense measure that is good for workers, good for public health and good for business. After all, who wants a sick employee preparing our food in a restaurant, handing us change in a store or fearing being fired for staying home to care for a sick child?
The Senate vote was 22 to 17. To see how your senator voted, CLICK HERE.
A similar bill is making its way through the Assembly.Read more
Committees in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly met Thursday to consider several bills of concern to working families. Here is a rundown of the day’s legislative action:
Safe Staffing for Nurses (A-647/S-1183). Legislation establishing staffing levels for nurses cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee by a vote of 8-4. It was the bill’s first public hearing. Voting in favor were: Assembly members Herb Conaway (D-7, Dan Benson (D-14), Tim Eustace (D-38, Jerry Green (D-22), Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Patricia Egan Jones (D-5) and Nancy Pinkin (D-18). Voting in opposition were: Mary Pat Angelini (R-11), Amy Handlin (R-13), Nancy Munoz (R-21) and Erik Peterson (R-23).Read more
President Charles Wowkanech issued the following statement on the introduction of legislation to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring the state to fully fund pensions:
“The New Jersey State AFL-CIO strongly supports legislation to place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot requiring the state to make its full pension payments. We applaud Senate President Steve Sweeney’s ongoing efforts to restore New Jersey’s pension system to fiscal health on behalf of this state’s 650,000 active and retired public-sector workers."Read more
In an opinion piece on NJ.com and published in the Times of Trenton newspaper on Saturday, July 18, 2015, NJ State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech lays out common-sense measures that can be taken now that would add as much as $1.6 billion to New Jersey's public pension system without costing 99 percent of taxpayers a penny.
The NJ AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions are leading the search for solutions to NJ's pension funding problem. Please CLICK HERE to read the full op-ed.
New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan expressed the federation’s support for a proposal by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto calling on Gov. Christie to make the state’s annual pension payment at the start of the fiscal year, rather than waiting until the end of the year.
Front-loading the payment would net the pension system an estimated $87 million in additional income by allowing the investment dollars more time to grow. The front-loading of investments is a standard good-business model practiced throughout corporate America. Since it doesn’t raise taxes, there is no good reason for the governor not to do it.Read more