Recently the Supreme Court of New Jersey decided it was without authority to order Governor Christie to fully fund the pension system he and the Democratic legislature agreed to in 2011. That was a sad day for New Jersey.
Not because of the court decision itself, as a decision the other way would have been no better. The court would have ordered we fill a multi-billion dollar hole in the budget, and unless I’m mistaken, the Supreme Court of New Jersey can’t wave a magic wand and print billions of dollars.
It’s a sad day because all I am hearing is both sides either celebrating or blaming the other for the outcome.Â I hear no solutions on how we are going to give our retirees the security they deserve.
It doesn’t take a panel of judges to know the facts: New Jersey’s pension system, like our roads and bridges, is severely underfunded because of the lack of leadership and fortitude, cowardice and a tacit agreement by Democrats and Republicans to kick the can of our financial health down the road.
For decades, governors, Democrat and Republican alike, have underfunded our pensions.Â In good years, they gave money back to workers and shortchanged the system because the money was flowing.Â In bad years they blamed the shortfall on the economy.
Then in 2011 they passed a law to increase pension payments by billions of dollars, but they forgot one critical thing: any sort of plan or guidance on how that would happen.
They gave no plan, and just hoped the economy would be good enough to plug the hole.Â What kind of leadership is that?
REGARDLESS of any court decision, we must pay for our retirees, and we can either figure out a way now, or suffer the consequences as the pension system’s health continues to deteriorate, our public debt continues to get downgraded, and we go further down this vicious cycle of financial decline.
We need to stop the cycle of senseless bickering that is only tearing the state apart.Â When Democrats and Republicans use the pension system as a way to attack each other, I’ll tell you one thing that doesn’t happen: we don’t get a dime closer to solving this crisis.
So at this point, I am encouraging everyone to read the following report.
While not perfect, it lays out a roadmap to begin the dialog on how to reach consensus on what to do about the pension problem.
Coupled with a bit of open-mindedness, a truly bi-partisan follow-up report and a serious consideration of Speaker Prieto’s private retirement proposal, which has severe shortcomings of its own, we must come together and agree to SOMETHING.
Doing nothing is going to just make the tumor grow. And worse, as we sit here bickering, we exhaust ourselves in the process and cause the public to lose faith in the system.
So where are the leaders who will stand up and say “I am ready to take responsibility for this problem we all caused, and I am ready to do it in a way that means I don’t get everything I want”?
For the Governor to ask others to suffer while he and past Governors played politics with the pensions is reprehensible.
Let’s put politics aside and get to the solution here. Â I know there is a compromise somewhere.