One of the biggest obstacles in budget negotiations between the Governor Murphy and the Legislature will be pension and benefit reform for NJ’s state employees and teachers. Senate President Sweeney’s “Path to Progress” proposes changes to the system that will result in cuts to health benefits and retirement security.
There is plenty in the PTP that makes sense, such as shared municipal services and school regionalization. But in discussing pension and benefit reform, the public must keep one thing in mind: this problem was created by lawmakers, not state employees and teachers.
Pensions and benefits are negotiated, meaning NJ agreed to their contributions. While employees and teachers have contributed every penny they were asked, the state raided the fund for decades. In 2011, reforms were enacted that increased teacher and employee contributions, causing many to go without an increase in take-home pay since. After every reform, we are told it is the last time and the state will meet its obligations. It hasn’t. We have no guarantee it will this time.
The money is gone. We know we are going to take another hit. But if Sweeney is serious about his desire to improve the state’s finances, he needs to do more than blame us. Pass Murphy’s millionaire’s tax reform and reinstate the estate tax. This will only affect the top 1% and 4% of filers, respectively. Reform the EDA subsidies that cost the state billions in free corporate handouts. Enact Murphy’s Corporate Responsibility Fee which will charge large employers whose employees still require public assistance.
This won’t make up the difference, but it would go a long way to showing state employees and teachers that NJ is serious about getting its finances in order instead of blaming us. Then, hopefully, we can solve the problem together.