NJ Newspaper: We Don’t Trust Christie’s Pension Panel

Chris Christie

The Daily Record released a scathing editorial today denouncing the efficacy of New Jersey’s Pension and Benefit Study Commission and the motives behind its creation.

The editorial claims that Christie put the panel together to act as a political shield when he eventually cuts worker benefits – which Christie has said will be a major part of the reforms that will eventually be proposed.

From the editorial:

Union and Democratic leaders are already denouncing the commission’s report as a sham designed from the start to do little more than bolster Christie’s claims that benefit cuts are the only answer. We can’t blame them. Remember how eager Christie was to declare success when a reform agreement was reached in 2011? That supposedly set New Jersey’s pension system on the road to solvency.

But now we’re being told it’s not even close. What’s happened since then? New Jersey’s economy has continued to lag on Christie’s watch. The governor then reneged on one of the state’s pension payments into the system that was part of that original agreement. That only exacerbated the long-term financial burden and — not coincidentally — furthered Christie’s own argument that more benefit cuts are unavoidable.

This is yet another case of Christie putting his own presidential ambition over the interests of New Jerseyans as he bows to national conservatives. The right wing doesn’t like unions, and will applaud any effort by governors and other elected officials to gut union influence. Slashing and burning public-worker benefits is a means to that end, and Christie is carrying out that task with dedication.


…When the commission delivers its recommendations, expect Christie to repeatedly cite them as “bipartisan” evidence of his wisdom in support of whatever cutback plan he puts forth. Democrats will ridicule the entire process as merely serving Christie’s will. And we’ll be no closer to arriving at some important decisions, in large part because Christie isn’t much worried about what New Jerseyans think anymore. He’s got bigger plans.

Read the rest of the editorial here.

Emanuel Draws Flak For Retiree Premium Increase

Rahm Emanuel Oval Office Barack Obama

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel increased retiree health premiums by 40 percent this week, and it didn’t take long for his challenger, Bob Fioretti, to criticize the decision. Fioretti, currently an alderman, told the Sun-Times:

“This will place an unsustainable financial burden on our retirees, who are already facing cuts to their pensions,” the 2nd Ward alderman said.

“Our retirees dedicated their lives to making our city work. How does this administration repay them? By breaking its promises and pushing struggling Chicagoans closer to poverty. It’s unconscionable at a time when we should be looking to build our [economy] from the middle out and lifting up our working families.”

Fioretti was asked where he would find the $27 million that Emanuel hopes to save in the city’s 2015 budget by continuing to phase out Chicago’s 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care.

“A lot of this they’ve known was coming down the road for a long time. It’s long-term bad planning. We should work to find ways to fund the promises we made,” he said.

“There are ways — whether it’s looking at a [1 percent] commuter tax [or] complete reform of TIFs — all of those are the real tough decisions we have to make to move this city forward. Those are solutions my administration will find.”

The city defended the premium increase as a fiscal necessity. From the Sun-Times:

Budget and Management spokesman Carl Gutierrez has called the increase “part of our efforts to right the city’s financial ship” and save Chicago taxpayers $27 million in 2015.

“For pre-Medicare retirees, there will be an additional reduction in their subsidy by only 25 percent, and the city is offering four plans to provide them with options for health care and to reduce their costs, including an option that would reduce their premiums,” he wrote in an email.

Bob Fioretti is running against Emanuel in Chicago’s mayoral race. Emanuel’s other main challenger, Karen Lewis, has not yet commented on the premium hike.

Photo by Pete Souza