I read last month in the Star-Ledger newspaper that State Senate President Steven Sweeney, Leader of the New Jersey State Senate stated that if Governor Chris Christie tries to renege on a $ 2.4 billion payment to fund the state pension system in his proposed budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year he would consider shutting down state government if this payment was not included in the proposed budget. While I feel that this is probably not the best solution it may be the only option to get the message to our thick headed governor. Less than three years ago Governor Christie stated that unless pension reform wasn’t passed the pension system would collapse. This pension problem would have not happened if had former governors Florio, Whitman, McGreevey and Corzine given a “vacation” on payments that were due by state, county and local governments. Instead offering taxpayer relief during those times they governed this state. Had those pension payments had been made back then the problem we faced in 2011 would probably not have happened.
Now Governor Christie is kind of offering the same “vacation” approach. In his inaugural speech he gave recently. He hinted that the $ 2.4 million payment that the state must make in the next fiscal year could be better utilized in extending the school day and school year and hiring more police. As a former Jersey City school teacher and retired lieutenant from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office I would never say no to fund neither school and police programs, but not on the sacrificing of payments rightfully due the pension systems. I believe in a New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio’s approach to this situation. Increasing the state income tax rates to fund the governor’s proposed school and police programs on those who are earn over $ 200,000.00 a year for single persons and $ 400,000.00 a year for those who are married would be the best approach in this situation. I would also like to see the restoration of the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) to pensioners. On February 1, 2014 it will be three (3) years that retirees of the various pension systems have not gotten an increase in the monthly pension allotments. It is sad to say that many pensioners are now fleeing this state not by choice, but because they no longer afford to live here. Just several days ago a report that I heard on the television state that “New Jersey is the third worst state for retirees to live in.” That is not only for governmental pensioners but also regular non-governmental retirees too. Yes, State Senator Sweeney’s approach might be a little draconian, but I believe this might be the only way to get the message across our thick headed governor.
Christos M. Genes
Editor’s Note: Genes currently serves as the financial secretary and treasurer of the New Jersey State Retired Policemen’s and Firemen’s Association – Hudson County Local No. 4 and a former lieutenant, union official and state delegate of the Hudson County Sheriff’s Superior Officers Association of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge No. 127.