Christie’s 2017 Challengers Already Forming Pension Policies

Chris Christie

New Jersey’s next gubernatorial election is still three years away – but Christie’s potential Democratic challengers are already meeting with stakeholders and gearing up their pension policies.

Those potential challengers include Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, former U.S. ambassador Philip Murphy and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

They all have one thing in common: they believe pensions will be a big issue in the 2017 election, and Christie will be on the wrong side of it.

From NorthJersey:

Although the contest is still three years away, several Democrats are already conducting a fierce, behind-the-scenes pre-primary.

And, for the time being, the best way of wooing unions representing police, firefighters and thousands of government workers appears to be to trumpet one of labor’s bottom-line demands: Unless Governor Christie reverses course and makes his promised payments to the pension system, any further discussion of more changes, including a call to scale back workers’ benefits, is dead in the water.

“The employees are paying their share, [Christie] should do the same,’’ said state Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

Christie’s reform push — a public tour over the summer and creation of the 10-member panel of experts who issued last month’s report — looks like it may run smack into the Democratic Party’s solidarity with public employee unions.

That unity will most likely be seen in the Senate, where Sweeney, a Gloucester County Democrat, has the power to derail Christie’s agenda when it suits him. Sweeney has cooperated with Christie on a whole range of deals — including the hotly contested 2011 reforms that forced public workers to pay more for pension and health care benefits, raised the retirement age and cut cost-of-living adjustments. Sweeney is not cooperating this time.

Other potential Democratic candidates in the 2017 race are also lining up behind the union position.

“We have no credibility as a government unless we stand up and meet our obligation to the pensioners,” said Philip Murphy, who served as a U.S. ambassador to Germany and led the Democratic National Committee’s fundraising from 2006 to 2009. “I think it’s very hard to go back to the well until the state can prove that it’s a reliable partner in this.”

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, who opposed the first round of benefit changes in 2011, also toed the union line. “Why would anybody believe assurances about any new set of promises about the pension fund when the promises that were made under heavy skepticism to begin with have not been lived up to?”

Unions were angry when Christie cut the state’s pension payments and used the money to plug budget shortfalls elsewhere. Union leaders said that workers were doing their part by contributing money, but the state was shirking its responsibility. From

“We can’t take anyone seriously who talks about fixing the pension system without putting in additional resources,’’ said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of governmental relations for the New Jersey Education Association, the powerful teachers union. “It’s ridiculous to think a pension system can survive without regular [state] contributions. Our members have made those contributions.”

According to a recent report from the New Jersey Pension and Benefit Study Commission, the state if shouldering $37 billion of pension liabilities. That number has tripled since 2005.

Pension Policy: Taking Stock of Where Florida’s Candidates For Governor Stand

Rick Scott

Pension policy has become an important issue in the race to be Florida’s governor, and the two major candidates (incumbent Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist) both have very different views on how the pension system should be altered, or not.

A rundown of their respective positions, from the Ocala Star Banner:

If Rick Scott is re-elected, you can expect a renewed push to move more public workers out of the traditional pension plan and into a 401(k)-type plan — which is currently an optional plan in the retirement system.

It was under Scott that public workers began making an annual 3 percent contribution to the state retirement fund in 2011. Scott’s criticism of the current system includes keeping a list of public workers who qualify for more than $100,000 in annual pension benefits on his state office website.

Under the changes, employees can choose whether their contributions and state contributions go into the traditional pension plan or into a 401(k)-type plan in which they can direct the investments.

If Charlie Crist wins, he is more likely to side with major labor unions that are supporting his campaign, including the Florida Education Association, which argue that Florida’s pension plan should not be changed.

The positive returns on the pension fund for the fiscal year that ended in June will bolster the argument that change is not needed.

Florida’s pension funds returned 17.4 percent in fiscal year 2013-14.


Photo by The 45th Space Wing via Flickr CC License

The Difference Between Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf on Pensions

Tom Corbett

Despite a lack of voter engagement on the issue, pension policy continues to play a large role in the Pennsylvania race for governor.

The candidates harbor very different views on how to handle the state’s pension system going forward, but the Associated Press did the service of clarifying where both candidates stand on the state’s pension issues:


-Corbett says the burgeoning cost of Pennsylvania’s public pensions is a crisis that requires prompt, decisive action. Wolf argues that it’s a problem that can be resolved in the years ahead.

-Corbett wants to scale back pensions for future school and state employees as a meaningful step toward savings. He says the taxpayers’ share of the pension costs for current employees — $2.1 billion this year — is crowding out funding for other programs and helping drive up local property taxes.

-Wolf contends that the pension problems are partly the result of the state contributing less than its fair share of the costs for nearly a decade and that a 2010 law reducing pension promises to future employees and refinancing existing obligations needs more time to work.

Read the rest of the article for further clarity on where each candidate stands when it comes to taxes, education funding, and more.