Documents: Illinois Gov. Rauner’s Budget Will Recommend Pension Cuts

Bruce Rauner

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner will give his budget address on Wednesday afternoon. He’ll announce a number of cost-cutting proposals, and pensions are sure to be featured.

What specifically does Rauner have in mind for the state pension system?

Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business got a hold of budget documents that hint at Rauner’s plans.

From Crain’s:

On pensions, Rauner is proposing to go substantially farther than the reforms passed a year ago by the General Assembly, reforms that now are being challenged before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Specifically, according to budget documents shared with me, Rauner intends to save $2.2 billion next year, cutting the state’s unfunded pension liability by $25 billion. He’d do that by freezing all benefits as of July 1, moving workers to a new plan in which cost-of-living hikes would be cut from the current 3 percent a year to the lesser of 3 percent or half of inflation, non-compounding; the normal retirement age would be 67, and overtime would not be counted in pension benefits.

These changes would apply to benefits earned after July 1. Benefits earned prior to that date would be paid at the previous rate. The Rauner document says that makes it constitutional as “earned benefits” are not cut. Expect a court challenge to that.

All of these changes would apply only to plans covering teachers, university employees and other state workers—not public safety employees.

Read an overview of the rest of Rauner’s probable budget proposals here.

 

By Steven Vance [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Judge in New Jersey Pension Trial Calls State Pension Contributions a “False Promise”

New Jersey State House

The judge presiding over the legal battle between New Jersey and its public workers said last week that the state’s 2011 pension reform law was a “false promise”.

The law required the state to contribute a set amount of money annually to the pension system. But Christie slashed those payments last year.

The judge, Mary Jacobson, wondered why New Jersey included in the reforms the “false promise” of guaranteed pension payments if the state knew it was unconstitutional.

From App.com:

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson repeatedly made the point that the Legislature specifically made the pension contributions a contractual right in a law signed by Christie, though the administration’s lawyer said it’s not allowable because lawmakers decide each year what to fund.

“You’re saying that it was known at that time, should have been known at that time, that that was a false promise,” Jacobson said.

“It’s unprecedented because it’s unconstitutional if enforced,” said deputy attorney general Jean Reilly. “It’s not an accident that it’s not in there before. It’s not in there before because it’s not constitutionally permissible to do. … For all future legislatures, it’s merely an exhortation for payment.”

Lawyers for the Communications Workers of America union said Christie and lawmakers locked the obligation into law because pension payments are always the first thing to be cut if money gets tight. They said Christie was required to find the funding to pay for pensions, not skip the obligation.

“It was a political decision not to do that,” said attorney Kenneth Nowak. “Now, the governor may have some agenda as to how he feels about taxes. But he also has a constitutional obligation.”

Christie cut the state’s pension payments in 2014 and 2015 by around $2.5 billion.

 

Photo credit: “New Jersey State House” by Marion Touvel – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:New_Jersey_State_House.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Jersey_State_House.jpg#mediaviewer/File:New_Jersey_State_House.jpg

Second Lawsuit Filed Against Chicago Pension Changes

chicago

A second lawsuit has been filed against Chicago, challenging the pension cuts passed by the state this year.

The pension changes raise contribution rates for employees and employers, and reduce COLAs. The changes apply to members of the Chicago Municipal Employees’ Annuity & Benefit Fund and Chicago Laborers’ Annuity & Benefit Fund.

From Reuters:

Litigation seeking to derail changes to Chicago public worker pensions on constitutional grounds ensnared a second city retirement system on Monday.

Attorney Clint Krislov said he filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of members of the city’s pension fund for laborers. That lawsuit followed one filed Dec. 16 by a coalition of labor unions against Chicago’s municipal pension fund.

An Illinois law enacted earlier this year for the two funds requires higher worker contributions and limits cost-of-living increases for retirees. The lawsuits contend the law violates a prohibition in the Illinois Constitution against reducing public worker retirement benefits.

Cook County Associate Judge Rita Novak on Monday set a hearing on the unions’ motion for a temporary restraining order in the municipal fund case for Jan. 28 and 30.

[…]

Like Illinois, Chicago is arguing that its so-called police powers to provide essential services to residents trump constitutional protections for pensions.

[…]

Under the law that takes effect on Thursday, Chicago’s payments to its two funds increase over five years. Workers’ current contributions of 8.5 percent of earnings rise to 11 percent over five years. Instead of receiving an annual 3 percent cost-of-living increase, retirees will receive increases tied to inflation. The increases will be skipped in certain years.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has warned that the funds face insolvency within nine to 17 years unless changes are made. The funding shortfall is $8.4 billion for the municipal system and $1 billion for the laborers system. Police and fire pensions were not affected by the law.

The Chicago Municipal Employees’ Annuity & Benefit Fund and Chicago Laborers’ Annuity & Benefit Fund manage a combined $6.7 billion in assets.

 

Photo by bitsorf via Flickr CC LIcense

Detroit Bankruptcy Judge Asks: Why Should City’s Pensioners Should Get Better Treatment Than Its Creditors?

Detroit

Closing arguments are underway in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial. But even if the trial is almost over, the drama isn’t.

Judge Steven Rhodes wondered aloud on Monday whether the city’s pensioners were getting more favorable treatment than its creditors – pension benefits were cut as part of the bankruptcy deal, but those benefits could be restored in the future.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Judge Steven Rhodes today pressured Detroit’s bankruptcy attorneys to justify better treatment for pensioners than financial creditors, making for an unexpectedly dramatic exchange during closing arguments of the city’s historic bankruptcy trial.

In a discussion of the complicated math underpinning the city’s financial projections, Rhodes noted that pensioners could eventually get all their pension cuts restored if the city’s pension investments perform well over the next several years.

“Tell me why that isn’t a 100% recovery,” Rhodes told Detroit bankruptcy lawyer Bruce Bennett.

“The math gets a little tricky here,” Bennett responded.

The exchange underscores the importance of the unfair discrimination issue in Detroit’s bankruptcy. Although all major creditors have struck settlements, bond insurers Syncora and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) argued earlier in the case that pensioners were getting extraordinarily favorable treatment.

[…]

Bennett said the largely amicable [pension] plan is “very remarkable” after a tumultuous negotiation period with retirees, insurers, bondholders and unions.

“We had litigation with everybody about something,” Bennett said.

He said the plan of adjustment is feasible and concluded that raising taxes to pay off debts was not workable, in part because the city has reached its legally allowable property tax rate.

“It’s frankly easy to decide taxes should not be increased. The harder question is, should taxes be reduced?” Bennett said.

Core to the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan is the grand bargain, which Bennett defended. The plan aims to shield the city-owned Detroit Institute of Arts from having to sell masterworks while also providing the equivalent of $816 million to reduce pension cuts to city workers and retirees.

As part of Detroit’s bankruptcy, civilian pensioners accepted 4.5 percent cuts to monthly benefits and the elimination of COLAs.

Police and Fire retirees saw their COLAs reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent.

Do Pensions Help Bring Talent To The Public Sector?

job hunting

An oft-cited argument in favor of generous public pensions is that it helps the public sector recruit and retain high-quality workers.

But is that the case? That question is the subject of the latest report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The findings of the report, as summarized by the CRR:

– Research shows that pensions help recruit and retain high-quality workers; thus, cutbacks in public pensions could hurt worker quality.

– One indicator of quality is the wage that a worker can earn in the private sector.

– Using this measure, states and localities consistently have a “quality gap” – the workers they lose have a higher private sector wage than those they gain.

– The analysis shows that jurisdictions with relatively generous pensions have smaller quality gaps, meaning they can better maintain a high-quality workforce.

– The bottom line is that states and localities should be cautious about scaling pensions back too far.

The report talks further about the correlation between cutting pensions and a widening “quality gap” between the public and private sector workforce:

As states grapple with challenges facing their pensions, many have taken steps that reduce benefit generosity for their new employees. The analysis suggests that states and localities with relatively generous pensions should be cautious, because reductions in benefits may result in a reduction in their ability to maintain a high-quality workforce. To the extent the quality gap already exists for many of these employers, reducing pension generosity may widen the gap.

A couple of caveats are important. First, some variables that may be correlated with both the quality gap and generosity of pensions – e.g., health insurance benefits – were not included in this analysis due to data limitations. If these factors (rather than pension normal costs) drove the result, then changes in pension benefits may have more muted effects than estimated here. Second, the non-linearity in the result is intriguing, but its source unclear. Why do plans at the bottom of the generosity distribution have smaller quality gaps than plans in the middle? Will reductions in these plans have any effect on the quality gap? Future research will seek to shed light on both the causality of the main result and on its apparent non-linearity.

Read the full report here.

 

Photo by Kate Hiscock via Flickr CC License

Stockton Can Cut Pensions And Stop Paying CalPERS. But Will It?

Flag of California

In a groundbreaking decision, a judge ruled yesterday that the bankrupt city of Stockton, California could indeed cut worker pensions and halt payments to CalPERS. From the LA Times:

A federal bankruptcy judge dealt a serious blow to California’s public employee pension systems by ruling Wednesday that payments for future worker retirements can be reduced when a city declares bankruptcy — just like its other debts.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled that bankruptcy law supersedes California pension laws that require cities to fund their workers’ future retirement checks.

“I’ve concluded the pension could be adjusted,” Klein said.

The potentially groundbreaking decision came after a large creditor of Stockton, which filed for bankruptcy protection two years ago, asked the judge to reduce the amount the city owes to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest public pension fund.

Until now, CalPERS had argued successfully in the bankruptcy cases of other California cities that amounts it requires for public worker pensions could not legally be reduced.

But just because Stockton can cut pensions doesn’t mean the city will. The city’s current bankruptcy plan doesn’t include pension cuts or the halting of payments to CalPERS. From the Sacramento Bee:

The practical effect of Klein’s ruling is unclear. It depends in large part on whether Klein will accept Stockton’s financial reorganization plan – a plan under which the city promises to keep making its annual $29 million pension payments in order to retain its relationship with CalPERS.

If Stockton gets Klein’s approval and can resolve its bankruptcy without slashing pensions, the impact of Klein’s ruling is blunted somewhat. But Klein won’t rule on the city’s plan until Oct. 30.

Because of Stockton’s pledge, CalPERS attorney Michael Gearin downplayed the decision and said it doesn’t force the city to cut its pension payments. “It doesn’t establish a precedent. Those were his comments about a hypothetical city” that wants to cut ties with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, he said.

The city seems to have an interest in working to keep pensions intact. Staying with CalPERS, on the other hand, is being viewed as a reluctant necessity. From the Sacramento Bee:

City officials have said they have no choice but to stick with CalPERS. If it doesn’t pay the pension fund in full, default would occur, and the city would either have to make a one-time payment of $1.6 billion to keep pensions whole or let CalPERS slash benefits by 60 percent. The result would be a mass exodus of employees, the city said, creating an enormous setback just as the troubled city, saddled with poverty and a high crime rate, is starting to get back on its feet.

CalPERS released a statement immediately after the ruling expressing their disappointment with the decision and claimed that the ruling was “not legally binding”. From Reuters:

“This ruling is not legally binding on any of the parties in the Stockton case or as precedent in any other bankruptcy proceeding and is unnecessary to the decision on confirmation of the City of Stockton’s plan of adjustment,” Calpers spokeswoman Rosanna Westmoreland said in an emailed statement.

“CalPERS will reserve any further comment until such time as the court renders its final written decision. What’s important to keep in mind is what the City of Stockton stated in court today: that they can’t function as a city if their pensions are impaired.”

Fact-Checking Pension Claims in Rhode Island’s Race For Governor

[iframe src=”<iframe scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen src=”http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=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″  width =”640″ height=”360″></iframe>”]

 

Amidst all of the pension sparring going on in the Rhode Island governor race, one question recently came to the forefront: Which candidate more effectively managed their respective pension system?

In a recent debate (the video of which can be seen above), Raimondo made the claim that Taveras did very little to improve the health of Providence’s pension system since he’s been in office.

“The pension fund in the city of Providence is only 30-percent funded, about the same level as when he [Taveras] took office,” she said at the debate. “[I] fixed a system for the long term. He made small changes and the pension system in Providence is still in crisis.”

But is that claim true? PolitiFact checked the facts.

We asked the Raimondo campaign for its evidence.

Spokesman Eric Hyers sent us links to two documents. The first was a Jan. 19, 2012 report from Providence’s pension adviser, Buck Consultants, which tracks funding going back to 1994, when the city had 57.4 percent of the pension money it needed.

Since then, the overall trend has been down. The funded ratio had plummeted to 39.3 percent by the last full fiscal year Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. was in office. It had dropped to 34.1 percent by June 30, 2010, when David Cicilline, now a U.S. representative, was in his last year.

A year later, when Taveras had been in office for six months, the funded ratio had dropped to 31.94 percent.

The second document was the Jan. 31, 2014 valuation report by the city’s new pension adviser, Segal Consulting.

It reports that as of June 30, 2013, with Taveras in office two and a half years, the funded ratio was virtually the same — 31.39 percent. And this was after Taveras won union concessions to reduce pension costs.

But PolitiFact also contacted the Taveras campaign to hear their side of the story.

Michael D’Amico, Taveras’ former director of administration who is now a budget consultant for the city, said it was “a complete oversimplification” to imply that the changes were small because the funded ratio didn’t change significantly.

The actual cost of the pension system was reduced substantially by negotiating changes such as a 10-year suspension of cost-of-living raises and the elimination of 5- and 6-percent compounded cost of living adjustments, D’Amico said.

“We got just about as much as we possibly could have without cutting pensions,” said Taveras spokesman David Ortiz. “In a sense, the administration faced a choice: do we push Providence into bankruptcy to give a receiver the ability to cut pensions?

“The mayor believed the cost and collateral damage of pushing Rhode Island’s capital city into bankruptcy was not worth extra pension savings we would have been able to pursue,” Ortiz said.

Said D’Amico: “If we hadn’t done anything, the funded ratio would have been much lower.”

PolitiFact’s final verdict: Raimondo’s claim regarding Providence’s pension fund is “mostly true.” From PoltiFact:

When Raimondo said, “The pension fund in the city of Providence is only 30 percent funded, about the same level as when he [Taveras] took office,” she was only off by one percentage point, according to the most recent audit of the fund. That funded ratio has not increased since Taveras was sworn in on Jan. 3, 2011.

But that percentage was on a downward spiral at the time, so having it stabilize at 31 percent doesn’t necessarily reflect “small changes,” as Raimondo claimed in the debate. And the changes negotiated between Taveras and the city’s unions are intended to gradually increase the funding ratio.

Because the statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, we rate it Mostly True.

Unions Rev Up New Appeal In New Jersey Pension Case – Read the Full Complaint Here

640px-New_Jersey_State_House

Unions lost the first round in the pension case playing out in New Jersey, when a judge ruled last week that New Jersey was too cash-strapped to make its full contribution to the pension system. The state instead diverted that money, totaling over $800 million, towards balancing the state budget.

Unions were hoping, and still are, for a court ruling that would reverse state Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to divert that money.

To that end, attorneys for the labor groups amended their court filings on Wednesday to update their argument that Christie broke the law when he slashed the state’s pension contribution.

The contribution, unions argue, was legally required due to a law that Christie himself signed in 2011. From the Asbury Park Press:

The updated court filings are a step toward a new hearing, expected in August, and fuller vetting of the issue by Jacobson, who said claims about the 2015 budget and pension payments needed time to become “ripe.” Christie made changes in the new budget days after Jacobson’s prior ruling.

 
“The amended filings reflect the fact that the governor didn’t make the full 2014 payment and made his changes in the 2015 budget,” said NJEA spokesman Steve Baker. “Other than that, there’s no substantive difference in the arguments we’ve had all along.”

 
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts pointed to the Republican governor’s past comments on the court case, when Christie called the spending cut “one of the hard choices the people of New Jersey expect me to make.”

 
“For our state’s families who are already overburdened by high taxes, raising taxes even further would not solve a problem created by decades of neglect and irresponsibility,” Christie also said.

 
The unions will have to make a stronger argument to Jacobson about Christie’s ability as governor to set fiscal priorities for such things as hospitals, nursing homes, tuition aid and other programs. In the June court hearing, the unions also failed to force Christie to turn $300 million from state surplus as a down payment on the shorted pensions. “The governor determined it would be extremely unwise to not maintain that amount,” Jacobson told the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

 

Read the full complaint here:

[iframe src=”<p  style=” margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;”>   <a title=”View Complaint – NJ Education Association on Scribd” href=”http://www.scribd.com/doc/235461708/Complaint-NJ-Education-Association”  style=”text-decoration: underline;” >Complaint – NJ Education Association</a></p><iframe class=”scribd_iframe_embed” src=”//www.scribd.com/embeds/235461708/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true” data-auto-height=”false” data-aspect-ratio=”undefined” scrolling=”no” id=”doc_95456″ width=”100%” height=”600″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>”]

 

Photo: “New Jersey State House” by Marion Touvel  Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles Pension Reforms Rescinded by Labor Board; City Will Appeal

640px-LA_Skyline_Mountains2

The Employee Relations Board, a five-member panel that handles labor complaints in Los Angeles’ City Hall, probably didn’t expect to become famous overnight.

But they’ve become a household name in Los Angeles this morning, after news broke that the Board voted to rescind a series of pension reforms passed by Los Angeles in 2012.

The Board ruled that city officials did not properly negotiate the reforms –which reduced pension benefits for new hires and raised retirement ages—with municipal employee unions. From the LA Times:

The Employee Relations Board voted unanimously Monday to order the City Council to rescind a 2012 law scaling back pension benefits for new employees of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, on the grounds that the changes were not properly negotiated. That law, backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti when he was a councilman, was expected to cut retirement costs by up to $309 million over a decade, according to city analysts.

Ellen Greenstone, a lawyer for the labor coalition, described the vote as a “huge, big deal” — one that shows the city could not unilaterally impose changes in pension benefits on its workforce.

Coalition chairwoman Cheryl Parisi said in a statement that the reduction in benefits, which included a hike in the employee retirement age, “devalues middle-class city workers and their dedication to serving the residents of Los Angeles.

The city’s labor board is a quasi-judicial body that reviews complaints from unions, managers and individual employees. Under the city’s labor ordinance, the panel has the power to invalidate decisions by the council, said the board’s executive director, Robert Bergeson.

If council members do not agree with Monday’s decision, they can file legal paperwork seeking to have a judge overturn it, Bergeson said.

City officials have previously argued that changes in the retirement benefits of future employees do not need to be negotiated. The 2012 law rolling back benefits applied only to employees hired after July 1, 2013. Budget officials had hoped that the reductions would trim the city’s retirement costs by more than $4 billion over a 30-year period.

The board’s decision comes as the city’s contributions for civilian employee retirement costs have climbed from $260 million in 2005 to an estimated $410 million this year, according to a recent budget report.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, plans to appeal the board’s decision. From Bloomberg:

Los Angeles will appeal an administrative panel’s decision to roll back changes in public employee pensions that were expected to save as much as $4.3 billion over 30 years, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The second most-populous city’s Employee Relations Board concluded yesterday that officials failed to properly consult with municipal employee unions before pushing through the changes in a City Council vote in October 2012.

The city will appeal the board’s 5-0 vote in court, Jeff Millman, a spokesman for the mayor, said by e-mail. Millman said Garcetti, a 43-year-old Democrat, disagreed with the ruling, although Millman didn’t spell out the reasons.

Los Angeles was expecting to save between $3.9 and $4.3 billion over the next 30 years. If the city does indeed appeal the ruling, the reforms will then land in front of a judge, who will have the final say.

 

Photo: “LA Skyline Mountains2″ by Nserrano – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons 

Chris Christie’s New Pension Proposal May Trigger Another Wave of Mass Retirements

ChrisChristie2

Back in 2011, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law the state’s first round of pension reforms, a curious thing happened: state workers started heading for the exits. And they weren’t leaving for the weekend—they were leaving for good.

In fact, state workers retired in unprecedented numbers in 2010 and 2011, when the pension proposal was being discussed and passed through the legislature. Under the plan, workers have to contribute more of their paychecks to the pension system.

Now, Gov. Christie has announced he’s planning to propose a new set of pension reforms—and he’s made it clear that the benefits of workers will not come out unscathed.

With that news circulating, New Jersey is reporting that another wave of retirements is already in the making. The Star-Ledger reports:

As Gov. Chris Christie bangs the drum for a second round of pension reform in New Jersey, public officials and union leaders are bracing for another wave of public workers rushing to retire.

Employees in state and local government headed for the door in record numbers at the beginning of Christie’s first term, thanks in part to laws passed by the governor and state lawmakers asking public workers to pay a larger share of their health and pension costs. More than 20,000 retired in 2010, followed by 19,500 the next year.

After slowing the next two years, the pace of public worker retirements is picking up again, according to state Treasury Department figures.

A total of 11,916 employees are scheduled to retire through the end of this month — a nearly 9 percent spike from the same point in 2013. If the pace continues, about 17,000 may file papers by the end of the year. A total of 15,700 public workers retired last year.

The change comes as Christie gets ready to introduce further changes to the pension system, which is facing $40 billion in unfunded liabilities.

The Republican governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who rose to popularity partly because of his pension fights with public worker unions, said the previous changes didn’t go far enough. He has put curtailing the costs of public employee benefits at the top of his summer agenda, suggesting the state could go bankrupt without more action.

Union leaders have offered up various explanations for the spike. Some say the retirements are indeed caused by the virtual guarantee that workers will see their benefits decrease if they don’t lock them in by retiring.

But other union officials claim that the surge in retirements can be chalked up to random fluctuations. From NJ.com:

Some union leaders say more public workers may be planning to retire out of fear they could see their pensions and health benefits cut if they don’t get out now.

“There’s a feeling of unease about what’s going to happen,” said Pat Colligan, president of the state Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “People have left the past couple of months because they’re afraid. And there are people who have their finger on the retirement button.”

But Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the state teachers union, said he’s not convinced this year’s 9 percent increase in retirements was caused by Christie’s warnings, saying numbers fluctuate from year to year.

“They may be on the higher end of the range, but they’re certainly within the range,” he said.

Hetty Rosenstein, director of the state chapter of the Communications Workers of America, said she would be upset if Christie’s talk caused more public workers to retire in the coming months.

“You have people who have dedicated their life to public service,” said Rosenstein, whose union represents more than 40,000 state workers in New Jersey. “It would be really terrible and shameful if people make their retirement decisions based upon fear that after 30 years their retirement isn’t secure.”

Among public workers, retirements for teachers and non-uniformed government workers are both up 12 percent so far this year, while police and firefighter retirements are down 14 percent. Retirements for the State Police dropped from 145 to 83, the figures show.

In the decade before Christie was governor, public workers retired at a rate of 13,656 a year. Since he took office, the clip is at 17,602 — a 29 percent increase.

Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said part of the problem is that Christie has yet to unveil any details of his plan to revise public worker benefits.

“There’s always fear of the unknown,” Dressel said. “There’s not a clear message coming from our state policymakers.”

Christie is currently holding a series of town hall meetings around the state addressing pension issues. He has not announced specific details of his latest pension reform proposal, but he says he will release the proposal to the public by the end of summer.